Environmental Commission Overwhelmingly Rejects motions by a 7-1 vote

(November 18, 2008 San José, Costa Rica)

Photo: Leatherback sea turtles defenders after Congress audience.

Photo: Leatherback sea turtles defenders after Congress audience.

Last November 13, The Environmental Commission of the Costa Rican Congress voted 7-1 to table three proposed law changes that sought to rezone Las Baulas Marine National Park and strip protection of critically endangered leatherback sea turtle nesting habitat.  The Commission’s response to conserve the Eastern Tropical Pacific’s most important leatherback nesting beaches (Playa Grande and Playa Langosta), and maintain protection for the Park’s surrounding hillsides, sends a powerful message to developers.  Protecting the Park’s current boundaries is a priority and of the upmost importance to the Environmental Commission.

Photo: Leatherback sea turtle defenders after Congress Audience

“The massive support of the Costa Rica people and of the international community definitely helped the Environmental Commission take this wise decision”, said Randall Arauz, President of the Costa Rican organization Pretoma.  “Developers were trying to convince the Commission that protecting this critical nesting habitat from development wasn’t necessary, but they were just defending their own private interests”, added Arauz.

The Commission’s ruling halts three proposals (16.915, 16.916, and 16.417) to amend the Law that created the National Park, which mandates the strict protection of a 125 meter strip of land above the high tide line.  Congressmen José Luis Vásquez and Jorge Eduardo Sánchez, who proposed the amendments, paradoxically claim their intent was to protect leatherback nesting habitat by removing this beachfront protection, which would have facilitated beach front developments.  Efforts to amend the Law, finally ground to a halt last November 13 after the Commission also voted to reject over ten additional motions submitted by the two representatives in a last desperate move.

While the stalwart decision is a step in the right direction towards effective protection of Las Baulas National Park, there exist other burgeoning threats.  As the proposed changes were being tabled, Congresswoman Grettel Ortiz read a letter from the Environment Ministry (Minaet) Vice Minister Jorge Rodriguez, expressing a rekindled interest in submitting a new proposal to protect the interests of “the turtles and the owners of the properties alike”.

“We must celebrate this victory with caution”, warned Clara Padilla, of the Leatherback Trust, a Costa Rican NGO dedicated to restoring the populations and habitats of these animals.  “We will study any new proposals carefully, keep the public informed, and study our legal options in case of further attempts to destroy Las Baulas National Park for the sake of development interests”.

“What can we expect from a government that declares Peace With Nature, but then turns around and condones the deforestation of over 300 hectares of tropical forest for the sake of a gold strip mine”?, asked Juan Figuerola, of the Costa Rican organization Bosques Nuestros.  “For this government, Las Baulas National Park is nothing more but a lure to attract their investor friends, disregarding the fate of the leatherback sea turtles and of the people”.

Las Baulas National Park was declared by Decree in 1991 and by Law in 1995, to preserve critically endangered leatherback sea turtle nesting beaches from the destructive effects of poachers and urban development projects.

For more information:

PRETOMA

Tel (506) 2241 5227

Fax (506) 2236 6017

Email:  info@pretoma.org

Website: www.pretoma.org

PRETOMA is a Costa Rican Civil Association of Public Interest (Decreto Ejecutivo 34150-J), and is an active member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature IUCN and the World Society for the Protection of Animals WSPA.

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    Environmental Commission Overwhelmingly Rejects motions by a 7-1 vote (November 18, 2008 San José, Costa Rica) Last November 13, The Environmental Commission of the Costa Rican Congress voted 7-1 to table three proposed law changes that sought to rezone Las Baulas Marine National Park and strip protection of critically endangered leatherback...