Leatherback National Park Letter to the Editor

The following is my letter to the Tico Times (an English language newspaper in Costa Rica) published on 2-19-10:

Mature Approach Needed To Solve Park Conflict

Dear Tico Times:

I would like to exercise my right to respond to the many letters and articles published in The Tico Times concerning the struggle to manage Las Baulas National Marine Park, in the northern province of Guanacaste.

How much longer will all sides ignorantly refuse to work together for the common good of this country?  In case you’re new to this battle, here’s what’s been going on over the past decade:

One conservationist/scientist will give an impassioned interview about how the park stretches 125 meters inland and how every centimeter of this stretch is extra essential for the protection of the thousands of leatherback sea turtles that will surely return to Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas if only given a chance and a little human compassion.

Then a keyed-up property owner will quip about leatherbacks being minced up left and right by open-ocean, longline fishing boats while he, his wife, and two beautiful children fight off egg poachers with their bare hands in order to protect the two or three leatherbacks that visit their beach each season.

Then the Costa Rican government weasels into the mix with a 50-page proposal that will make the landscape greener, the skies and waters bluer, the houses bigger, the people happier, and the nesting turtles friendlier.

“No, No, No!” scream the environmentalists, “this won’t do.  You see, we have studies and science and statements and numbers and facts and data that prove you all wrong.”

“But your science will drive the country broke,” the landowners say, “and we should use what few crumbs we have left in our silken pockets to repair the many things we don’t like about this country.”

Back and forth they go.  One side scores a sound bite on Channel 11, but it is soon one-upped by the opposition on Channel 7 a half-hour later.

And I’m no innocent benchwarmer in this rivalry.  I’ve been interviewed, and quoted, and congratulated, and hissed at.  But now I want to say, Stop !

I’m tired of this.  I’m sick of throwing good resources at stupid problems.  All three parties are ignorant because we refuse to fix what’s broken.  Instead, we do what comes naturally and insist we’re right.  But what we fail to see is how our bickering damages this country.

So now I’m asking everyone to stop the power struggle and work the problem out.  This will involve compromise, and nobody will get everything they asked Santa for.  But if we agree to start a mature discussion, then we can begin to repair what we’ve undeniably broken.

Now, how do we start? I’m open to suggestions.

Andy Bystrom

San José

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