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Farmer charged with arson in Palo Verde National Park blaze

February 11, 2015

Prosecutors in Liberia, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, received a complaint against a farmer with the last name Brenes Salazar for allegedly starting a fire that affected 70 hectares of Palo Verde National Park on Jan. 16.

The complaint was made ​​by the park’s administration, who said Brenes did not have permits for agricultural burning on his land, which is adjacent to Palo Verde.

“National park authorities sent evidence and documentation and are waiting for an investigation ​​by the prosecutor’s office,” the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) said in a press release.

Luis Diego Román, coordinator of the National Commision on Wildfires (CONIFOR), said, “the idea is to [reach a verdict in the case] as soon as possible in order to set a precedent and to make people aware that they can go to jail if a fire gets out of control.”

The species most affected by the fire (35 hectares) was Typha, a variety of grass. Fire also burned 15 hectares of pasture and 20 hectares of secondary forest, and regeneration could take up to 20 years, according to SINAC.

According to the agency, 49 percent of wildfires in Costa Rica are caused by agricultural-related burning practices.

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