The Final Leatherback Battle Has Begun (update on bill 17.383)

What might be the final and decisive battle in the decade long war over the fate of Leatherback sea turtle (Las Baulas) National Park in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, has begun.

All fotos courtesy of Alexander Gaos

On March 4th the presidentially sponsored bill 17.383 that proposes to downgrade Las Baulas to a national wildlife refuge and pave the way for private landholders to develop their plots inside the existing National Park’s turtle nesting buffer zone, was officially presented before the Legislative Assembly’s nine member Environmental Commission.  If approved by the Environmental Commission, the bill would move to a plenary vote where members of President Oscar Arias’ Liberation party hold a controlling majority and have been instructed to not stand in its way. 

Late last year it looked as though support for the bill was waning and park supporters began to harbor the belief that the Costa Rican government had come to its senses and would turn its interest away from a handful of rich private interests and towards the responsible governing of this small Central American country.  Nope. 

Instead, a rushed technical report that justifies the bill was slapped together.  In effect, the report takes all of the conclusions from the country’s most noted agencies – including prominent reports from groundwater authorities, notable scientific reports from international NGOs, among others – and completely discombobulates figures and facts to support the Park’s demise.  And although court order after court order supports the need to expropriate these privately held lands, special interests refuse to cooperate and negotiate a fair market value for their possessions.  Because of this the government cannot begin to reacquire crucial Park acreage.

The disturbing truth in all of this is how many of these land holders are foreign citizens with notably shallow interest in conserving Costa Rican natural resources and culture.

To send a letter of support to the Costa Rican government for Las Baulas National Park , please follow the instructions below.

In addition, please spread the word about the atrocities that are happening to the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle in this “ecologically conscious” country.  It’s time to stop these private interests from dictating whether or not our children will get the chance to experience these beautiful animals.

Costa Ricans and foreigners are encouraged to defend the park by writing personal letters to Senora Hania M. Durán at the Legislative Assembly: hduran@asamblea.go.cr

In addition, please copy President Arias’ secretary, Mariangel Solera, at msolera@casapres.go.cr and the Costa Rican marine turtle conservation NGO Pretoma at info@pretoma.org

The following is a sample letter:

Costa Rica created Las Baulas National Park by Law in 1995, acknowledging the country’s responsibility the most viable leatherback nesting beaches in the Eastern Pacific. Unfortunately, I’m aware that this Honorable Commission is reviewing bill 17.383 to amend the Law and downgrade the park to a national wildlife refuge, something that would alter critical leatherback nesting habitat.  I’m also aware of the State Attorney’s and the Constitutional Court’s rulings that mandate the Government of Costa Rica to immediately proceed with the expropriation of lands within the Park’s boundaries for their permanent protection.


I therefore urge this Commission to uphold the aforementioned Court rulings, and reject this bill.

Thank you.

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Comments
20 Responses to “The Final Leatherback Battle Has Begun (update on bill 17.383)”
  1. Nicole says:

    This is it andy let’s do it!! I am getting a petition letter together as we speak!

  2. Pumpy says:

    Please delete my previous post, I miss read and was in such a hurry to get it onto my Blog.
    This is disgusting, Humans are the scum of the earth. God gave us these beautiful creatures to love and protect, not wonder we are killing the earth.
    We should stop breading.

  3. Diego Herrera says:

    Hire a good lawyer and really study the legal situation and you will see clearly a lot of disinformation from some NGO which only interest is to raise money to make a good living for their “spokeman” like Arauz. Padilla, Boza and a lot of others…

    The park is not in danger, the nesting area is fully protected and there is a full buffer zone between the nesting area and the private land, as recommended by the UICN.

    Why you don’t fight against the real threat for the turtles, the fishing industry???

    • Andy Bystrom says:

      Diego,
      You write, “The park is not in danger…”, yet the title of bill 17.383 is “Ley de Rectificación de Límites del Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas y Creación del Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Las Baulas de Propiedad Mixta”. It proposes to remove the Cerro Morro, remnants of tropical dry forest, and the 125 meter buffer zone along Playa Grande from the existing park, downgrading these areas to a national wildlife refuge. The current buffer zone is 175 meters. The park was specifically set up to protect the most important leatherback nesting beaches in the Eastern Tropical Pacific and any changes to this adversly effect the Park’s mission. Stacks and stacks of binders full of letters written by individuals, NGOs, business operators, foreign governments, even multiple departments within Costa Rica’s government acknowledge this fact. Costa Rica has the power to protect every single leatherback nest along these beaches and that is exactly what will continue to happen. In the meantime we work every day in the international forum to revise open ocean fishing practices and create marine protected areas. However this calls for the support of multiple nations. In the mean time why don’t we do what we can to protect what we can right here at home? As for your suggestion to hire a good lawyer–the Costa Rican people have. In fact they have “hired” a bunch of good ones. They’re called the state’s Procuraduria and Sala IV, and both entities have ruled that the government continue with the expropriation process.
      But you already know all of this.

      What you should now take back with you to your meetings with the rest of the private interests who wish to destroy the natural resources of this country is the following message: Your desperate desires to destroy this national park will be met with increasing national and international opposition. You’re welcome to keep throwing resources at this initiative if you like, though it has reached a point where it’s taking up valuable governmental assets and time that could be better focused on other pressing issues that this country faces.

      As for your accusations against Randall Arauz, Pretoma’s president (Costa Rican NGO), he stated in front of the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental Commission on Thursday (as he always has) that his books are open for you or anyone else to revise. Interesting how the opposition is now trying to bad mouth the country’s for most conservationists. It’s as if deep down you understand that what you’re doing is perverse and illegal, but you’re left with nowhere else to turn.

    • Diego, if you had any idea what Pretoma does, you would know we are perhaps the only NGO openly fighting the industry (read today’s Nación March 22, page 57 A http://www.nacion.com/2010-03-22/Opinion/Foro/Opinion2309786.aspx)

      And what’s the real threat to the turtles? Its the illegal possession of lands whre they nest and that constitute the National Park, that formerly belonged to the State but was “apropiado indebidamente” by politically and corrupt influential peopls. They ripped off the land, and now they want a huge indemnization! What a nerve! Are you one of those Diego? Is your land currently be disputed in Court by the Costa Rican Attorney (Procuraduría)? It would be great if you told us.

  4. Diego Herrera says:

    Hi

    Just see your comment now, I have just a question for Randall, how he make is salary every month? Or he is enough wealthy that he don’t need income?

    My point with that is there is solution in playa grande it come impossible to all those NGO’s to ask money to “save the park”.

    Everybody know that the leatherback population of national park Santa Rosa has suffered exactly the same diminution rate then the population of playa Grande. Why you can see the truth or why you dont want to see it.

    The park is not in the danger and the leatherback nest are protected, any body who was in playa grande know that that there is a green curtain of 30 meters of madero negro between the beach and the private properties.

    In the US there is a lot of place where human and turtles cohabit without problem and the interesting fact is that in those places the number of turtles increase each years. Because there is also protection in the sea; trawler and shrimps fishing are prohibited.

    You are totally confusing people with your distorted statement, the realty your fight is not for ecology but to make a living and fight against development. In guanacaste we have a excellent word for what you are a Sandia (watermelon) green outside, red inside.

    I have no land in playa grande, my uncle own a small lot and I thing is totally criminal to try to challenge 40 years later the title of a land which was registered LEGALLY in 1970, and know for a interpretation of PGR the try to change the way the law was in application. Follow with this kind of action and the country will loose all foreign investment.

  5. Diego Herrera says:

    Hi

    Just see your comment now, I have just a question for Randall, how he make is salary every month? Or he is enough wealthy that he don’t need income?

    My point with that is if there is solution in playa grande it come impossible to all those NGO’s to ask money to “save the park”.

    Everybody know that the leatherback population of national park Santa Rosa has suffered exactly the same diminution rate then the population of playa Grande. Why you can see the truth or why you dont want to see it.

    The park is not in the danger and the leatherback nest are protected, any body who was in playa grande know that that there is a green curtain of 30 meters of madero negro between the beach and the private properties.

    In the US there is a lot of place where human and turtles cohabit without problem and the interesting fact is that in those places the number of turtles increase each years. Because there is also protection in the sea; trawler and shrimps fishing are prohibited.

    You are totally confusing people with your distorted statement, the realty your fight is not for ecology but to make a living and fight against development. In guanacaste we have a excellent word for what you are a Sandia (watermelon) green outside, red inside.

    I have no land in playa grande, my uncle own a small lot and I thing is totally criminal to try to challenge 40 years later the title of a land which was registered LEGALLY in 1970, and know for a interpretation of PGR the try to change the way the law was in application. Follow with this kind of action and the country will loose all foreign investment.

  6. Diego, lets just wait and see what the PGR (State Attorney) says. Until then, any attempt to legitimize the legal status of those in possession of the questioned lands, are simply and plainly, illegal. If the PGR (or should I say, the Costa Rican people) wins this case, it wont even be necessary to expropriate any land at all! Wouldn’t THAT be the perfect solution?

  7. Diego Herrera says:

    Randall,

    You remember me those guy from Kampuchea, you see want I mean?, those nice people who’s kill more than half of the population of their own country to educate them… in their right way, like you try to do.

    What you don’t understand, is that the buyers and land owners are third good faith buyers and the Costa Rica Government have the obligation to compensate them at the market value, and this is stated in more than twelve international treaties. You want to enforce international treaties for environmental protection, never forget that you have a lot more of investment treaties… And a third buyer of good faith is always protected.

    Somebody told me that you were fired from playa Grande when you worked for Mirenem, can you tell us why???I thing that can explain a lot of thinks

    Also can you say exactly HOW MUCH you was paid by the Leatherback Trust and Dr Spotila to support their campaign, I thing that everybody deserve to know those facts and details …

  8. Diego Herrera says:

    Randall,

    FYI the PGR is the State Lawyer Office and not the people office, we are still in Costa Rica not in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela. If you like those kind of regime, I recommend to you to move because 75% of the people on the coast voted from center to right and your party receive less than 0,3% at national level.

  9. Diego, we are obviously getting nowhere with this. I suggest we just wait for the Courts to rule. Did you already see the PGR resolution on the Juan Castro Blanco National Park? Private interests were expecting the State to pay them millions of US$ for property in the Park they claim as theirs, same as the case with Playa Grande. Well, they LOST. The property now belongs to the State, without spending a penny. The properties belonged to ITCO, and were wrongfully possessed by private investors, a move facilitated by corrupt politicians. But the wheels of justice are grinding, slowly but surely. Nervous?

    And stop the rumours, be a MAN. “A little bird told me bla bla bla”. Get your fact straights, and when you do, we can hold the discussions you want. Get the documents that said I was fired, and then we can talk.

    Like I said, my books are open. Just come to my office, and I will gladly show you are books, or the office of “Tributación Directa”, its all there. Freddy Pacheco seems to have already done this, as he knows exaclty how much money we raised in 2009, so just go ask him. After all, he is defending your interests, right?

    Oh, and I also have news for you. I’m NOT following your recommendation. I’m staying right here, defending the country from foreign investors and Costa Ricans who sell out, using Sala IV, PGR, Contraloría, and the Defensoría. Maybe YOU should consider moving, since you just cant stand having to abide by the law.

    And BTW, is the State Lawyer Office not “the people”? Darn, I would have thought you AT LEAST knew THAT from watching any popular TV series like Law and Order, as you are obviously NOT very knowledgable when it comes to Costa Rican law (or any law, for that matter). But if you need a “people” statement, check what the Defensora de los Habitantes said just before she left office. Not very flattering for Oscar Arias and his attempt to downgrade the park to serve the private interests of his friends. I can get you a copy if you like, just send me an email message.

  10. Carlos A. Masís says:

    Not more than 41 leatherbacks have arrived to the 5 miles of protected beaches at the National Park in the last two seasons. Two decades ago there were around 2.000. And those beaches are very well protected from any kind of actions against the beloved turtles. The problem is well known by the scientific community and it takes us to the industrial fishing fleet operating in the Pacific Ocean.
    . .
    What for Mr. Arauz is a project intended to destroy the turtles is nothing more that a good solution to the problem related to the private owned properties that are located out of the park beaches, where the turtles will never get and where the owners agreed to a very low density development, with lights and sounds strict regulations. The purpose is to give the turtle’s further protection in land.
    . .
    Besides, not Arauz or anyone else can say what the final resolution is going to come out of the judiciary and administrative offices, regarding the legal situation of few of the properties involved in an investigation. It has nothing to do with the proposed project of law.
    . .
    We, the Costa Ricans (not The Leatherback Trust that speaks through Randall) want to reach a solution to the ownership situation without having to pay hundreds of millions of US dollars unnecessarily. And nor the government or anyone else has that money which is very much needed for other initiatives. And this is also well known by Mr. Arauz.
    . .
    Why not having a wildlife refugee in the land near the national park’s beaches? This is what the project is proposing; not the destruction of the park, as he says.
    . .

  11. Diego,
    Since you probably aren’t going to ask me for the Defensoría report, I decided to post the link for downloads, in case anyone else would like to read it:
    http://www.dhr.go.cr/noticias/6.8.parquelasbaulas.pdf

  12. Diego Herrera says:

    If your legal references are soap opera you will have a lot of problem in your life.

    The case of Juan Castro Blanco is totally different some crooks from the Public Registry were trying to titled the land of a NP, don’t mix everything.

    In the case of the DH Lisbeth Quesada, it’s clear that was a political actuation from a left women which ate the president of Costa Rica and she was in campaign to obtain a seat in the congress.

    A good fact of your failure to get support from the people is the lose of the Congress seat of the PAC for Guanacaste, the candidate was the head of the Leatherback Trust in Costa Rica and she fail, when in all of the others “provincias” the PAC have at least one Congressman.

    Your support come from the same ngo’s and misinformed people. It’s so easy to manipulate the people who have a good heart and who really want to protect the turtles.

    In the case of Baulas do you really thing that the PGR have the right to change law approved by the Congress?

    Don’t look at LA Law or other gringo stupidity just read our Constitution:

    Powers of the Legislative Assembly

    ARTICLE 121. In addition to other powers vested in it by this Constitution, the Legislative Assembly has exclusive powers to:

    1. Enact, amend, repeal and give an authentic interpretation to the laws, except as otherwise provided in the chapter referring to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal;

    What do you thing about that?

    Only the Congress have the right to give interpretation to the laws, in a international case that will destroy any argument. This interpretation is totally illegal and open the door for massive lawsuit against the State.

  13. Well, its your right to take this to court, nobody is debating that. IN fact, its all in court right now, and thats my point. Until we get a resolution, well, it isn’t possible to change the category of the Park, as the State (the people, the Costa Rican government, or however you want to call it) may very well obtain these properties without paying a penny, which in my view is, the PERFECT solution.

    BTW, can I have your phone number and personal email address? You know, just to make sure this is a real person.

  14. Diego, I’m waiting…or should I call you by your REAL name?

  15. How sad! To see grownups using pseudonyms to defend their causes…that no one else supports.

  16. See Freddy Pacheco, or Diego Herrera, or whatever you want to call him (he has LOTS of pseudonyms, depending on who wants to attack), supporting our Shark Finning campaign, BEFORE we had to publicly expose his twisted interests in Las Baulas National Park.

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