The country’s leading environmental groups are demanding that long-discussed expropriations of private land within Las Baulas National Marine Park, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, begin immediately.
In a letter to President Oscar Arias, accompanied by the signatures of 7,685 Costa Rican citizens, they cited the importance of the park’s beaches for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle, whose numbers have plummeted more than 90% during the past 20 years (TT, April 13).
Playa Grande, the park’s centerpiece north of Tamarindo, ranks as the most important nesting beach in Costa Rica and one of the five most important in the world (TT, Jan.28, 2005).
A dispute over the meaning of two words in the park’s creation document have led to nearly interminable legal battles between property owners, who believe the park includes only the beach and marine territory, and environmentalists, who insist it includes a terrestrial portion.
According to a statement released by six of the country’s major environmental groups, the process has been stalled since May 2006, despite a binding decision from the Government Attorney’s Office and only 0.22% of the land has been expropriated.
“We are not talking about expropriating a coastal community which has lived for generations on the site. On the contrary, the owners of these properties are mostly companies and partnerships which should not have a higher priority than the natural resources that belong to all Costa Ricans,” said Wagner Quirós, coordinator of the National Network for Sea Turtle Conservation.