Commitment to Nature Tourism

Commitment to Nature Tourism

This awareness led to the creation of more and more parks and protected areas during the 1980s.

The Costa Rican National Parks Service began a concerted effort to teach environmental education in the schools. Costa Rica also made a decision to rely on its biodiversity to attract tourism, instead of becoming yet another fun-and-sun tropical destination.

Word spread, and soon Costa Ricans were seeing that their commitment to the protection of nature was providing jobs and opportunities for advancement.

Environmental Services and Article 50 of the Constitution

In 1994, Costa Rica conducted a thorough survey of its richest ecosystems to determine how to conserve its remaining biodiversity. But the government, with 25% of national territory under some kind of protection, could not afford to buy and maintain more land. The government acknowledged that many privately owned reserves supported conservation by forming buffer zones and biological corridors around and between existing national parks. In 1995, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) was formed. This divides the country into eleven conservation areas, ignoring provincial boundaries, and concentrating on related ecosystems. In each area, private- and state-owned conservation activities are interrelated. SINAC's goals are to manage and promote the sustainable use of natural resources along with economic and social development.

Costa Rica's 1997 biodiversity law authorizes a tax on gasoline in order to compensate the owners of forested land for the environmental services that their forests offer to society. These services are:

reduction of greenhouse gases
protection of drinking water
protection of rivers that can be harnessed for hydroelectric power
protection of biodiversity and its sustainable use for pharmaceuticals and science
protection of ecosystems, life forms and scenic beauty.

Article 50 the Costa Rican Constitution states: "All people have the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment." Citizens have lived with environmental education, conservation and ecotourism for a generation, and today it is rare to find Costa Ricans who are not wholeheartedly in favor of protecting nature. At the same time, poverty and lack of jobs still lead to illegal poaching. The struggle between exploiting nature and conserving forests and wildlife continues.

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