Farming Company Bulldozes Wildlife Refuge

Farming Company Ordered to Pay $21,200 for Wetland Environmental Damages – Continues to Bulldoze inside National Wildlife Refuge

Costa Rica’s Environmental Tribunal has ordered Agropecuario Caletas S.A. to halt all illegal farming operations inside the Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge in Guanacaste and pay $21,200 for environmental damages it has caused.

The refuge and wetland in August, 2008

The refuge and wetland in August, 2008 (photo: Ingrid Rojas)

In June, Tribunal officials ordered the company to stop its farming activity in and around a sensitive wetland and pay for damages caused therein (Resolución N° 390-09-TAA). The resoluting came after officials observed how the company is, by design, draining, burning and thereby sucking the biological diversity out of a 150 hectare wetland that boarders Playa Caletas on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

Video taken by Pretoma this past weekend shows how the court order and subsequent fines have done nothing to stop the company’s relentless efforts to drain and till under the wetland. “As a Costa Rican, it is quite upsetting to see Agropecuaria Caletas S.A.’s total disrespect of our Courts”, said Randall Arauz, President of Pretoma.  “The foreign owner of Agropecuaria Caletas S.A. has not only ignored the fine, but he is openly challenging the Environmental Tribune’s authority, by continuing the destruction of the wetland without any apparent fear of legal reprisals”.

Pretoma filed a lawsuit against Agropecuaria Caletas S.A. and its president Silvester Feichtinger in 2006 in reaction to a barbwire fence the company constructed in the public zone. Since that date, the company’s agricultural development efforts have increased with it zeroing in on butchering the wetland until it can be converted into a corn field.

The refuge in September, 2009 after the court order to stop bulldozing

The refuge in September, 2009 after the court order to stop bulldozing (photo: Randall Arauz)

In August 2008 the company set fires to better clear the areas surrounding the wetland. The flames quickly spread to within one meter of Pretoma’s sea turtle conservation camp, putting at risk its 6 volunteers and sea turtle hatchery that protect 130 nests and estimated 10,000 turtle hatchlings.

“The flames just keep on coming”, said Jeff Kutz, Pretoma’s Caletas project coordinator of that day last year, “they had been clearing the land right next to the beach and inside the wetland for a while, but we never thought they would start burning the protected land around the camp”. Since that time, Pretoma has worked diligently with the Environmental Tribunal to stop and reverse these damages.

Another tractor in September, 2009 (photo: Randall Arauz)

Another tractor in September, 2009 (photo: Randall Arauz)

According to the Environmental Ministry (MINAET) and the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT), the wetland is seasonal and maintains an aquatic habitat during Costa Rica’s the rainy season (May – November) and dries out during the final months of Costa Rica’s dry season (December – April) However, observations made by Pretoma since the refuge’s inception have revealed how the wetland now is nearly dry by the end of December, the dry season’s first month.

The Caletas-Arío National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2006 for the conservation of important species of flora and fauna associated with wetlands and marine areas. The ACT considers the wetland’s unique biodiversity to be a nucleus of enormous importance for the conservation and management of the area’s natural resources.

For more information contact Andy Bystrom at


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