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The Ugalde/Boza Osa Marine Reserve: A Call to Honor Costa Rica’s Leading Conservationists

On October 29th one of Costa Rica’s leading environmentalists, Mario Boza passed away after a near fifty year career dedicated to the conservation of nature. Boza was co-founder, with Alvaro Ugalde, of the country’s national park system (SINAC) established in 1970. 

He earned the J. Paul Getty Conservation Prize from the World Wildlife Fund, was a trusted advisor to Presidents and the country’s first head of the National Park Service.

In the weeks since Boza’s death, some former colleagues and conservationists are organizing to formally honor his life-long contributions to Costa Rica. 

As co-founders of SINAC, both Alvaro Ugalde and Mario Boza laid the foundation for nature conservation across the country and a now thriving eco-tourism industry.

In round numbers one-third of Costa Rica is legally protected in the form of national parks, reserves, wildlife and wildlife corridors. Prior to the Covid some they attracted 1 million tourists each year and accounted for approximately 10% of the national economy. 

A alarm was sounded however by the SF Chronicle Foreign Service in a December 2000 article, Trouble in Paradise/Critics say lack of protection endangers Costa Rica’s famed nature preserves for which Boza was interviewed:

“Mario Boza, who is the co-founder of the national parks system and a conservation legend in Costa Rica, says the failure to reinvest enough tourism dollars in conservation has also caused the deterioration of many nature reserves.” 

Until his health failed this year, Boza advanced a management plan as a practical solution. 

“If the government would adopt his management plan, Costa Rica would enjoy guaranteed visitation of nature lovers from all over the world, while preserving its natural wonders for the long term benefit of Costa Ricans,” explained fellow conservationist John Tresemer, “Mario is the guy who gave Costa Rica its ‘green’ image, which has helped wonderfully for tourism, the economy, and environmental health.”

Tresemer worked alongside Boza and Ugalde first establishing what is now the Cocos Island National Park in 1978 and later the Whale Marine National Park (Parque Marino Ballena) in 1989-90.

Another former colleague of Boza’s recently retired from MINAE, Miguel Madrigal Hernandez, says that Boza and Ugalde should be declared “Benemérito de la Patria” for their lifetime of work. 

Madrigal supports a national marine reserve in honor of Boza and Ugalde surrounding the Osa Peninsula, a project he and Tresemer helped Mario Boza bring to the then head of MINAE, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez in 2019. A Bill named in honor Ugalde was introduced by the National Assembly.

“You only need the support of the Minae leaders,” to get it done, said Madrigal. 

“[Mario Boza’s] last major desire was for the government to implement his management plan, and create the Marine Protected Area between Ballena Marine National Par and Corcovado National Park, including the Térraba/Sierpe estuary to protect one of the most biologically diverse and prolific marine areas of the world,” explained Tresemer.

“Hopefully the Costa Rican government will be as wise and respectful as don Mario.”

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