It is an unfortunate reality that the nature tourism industry which has developed under the ideal conditions found in Chilamate, is based on the presence of large areas of unprotected forested land, which are, in fact, in immediate danger of destruction. The bulk of the area of the Sardinal Hills is contained within one single 670 hectare property, Finca La Martita (highlighted in pink on the enclosed maps). The owner recently applied for a logging permit to cut and sell the lumber in the Sardinal Hills area of the property in order to pay part of the purchase price still owed to the sellers.
This development has greatly alarmed the community of Chilamate and led to the formation of the Sarapiquí Association for Forests and Wildlife. On July 21, 1993 the members of the community sent a petition to Dr. Orlando Morales, the Minister of Natural Resources in Costa Rica. The petition reads as follows (translated from Spanish):
Very Esteemed Minister:
Let this letter serve in the first place to greet you and congratulate you for your dedicated efforts in the defense of our natural resources. We, the neighbors of Sarapiquí, wish to request your help in preventing the destruction of the forests of Finca La Martita. We understand that the owner of the property has requested, and may have already obtained, a logging permit to cut and sell the lumber. The property is located in Chilamate and includes the greater part of the Sardinal Hills. It includes 670 hectares, half of which is primary forest, a fourth of which is secondary forest, and the rest pasture. Its complete deforestation would not only contribute to aggravating the problems of erosion within the zone, but gravely enhance its already precarious situation, a consequence of the uncontrolled exploitation by cattle ranchers and banana plantations.
The region of Sarapiquí has developed a strong eco-tourism industry, by which many of us live. We would like to see this industry grow, rather than destroying the nature which forms its base. There already exist in Chilamate some successful eco-tourism projects which offer the visitor access to the forests contiguous to those of La Martita. In reality, the forests of La Martita represent the largest part of the forested area in Chilamate. Their destruction would do great harm to our eco-tourism industry. It would also signify the elimination of the monkeys, wild cats, and many other mammals and birds from the forests of Chilamate. We would like to see the Finca La Martita working together with us in eco-tourism. This would mean the expansion of eco-tourism in Chilamate, rather than its disappearance.
We, the neighbors of Sarapiquí, are willing to make every effort necessary to develop eco-tourism in La Martita, if you give us the opportunity. It worries us greatly to know that there exists an immediate danger of the destruction of its forests, if already granted (we do not know if the permission that authorizes this ecological disaster was properly acquired). We wish to ask you, with all respect, to review the logging permit that may have been given to the owner of La Martita, and consider the possibility of revoking it. Give us the opportunity to put La Martita to work in eco-tourism, and in this way protect the industry of eco-tourism that already exists in the region, which would be gravely damaged if the animal species that presently circulate freely in the area are reduced or all together pushed out of the area.
We, and the future generations of our country, thank you for all your efforts in solving this serious problem.
We request that you notify us of your decision and all information relative to this matter, at the office of Agustin Atmetlla Cruz, lawyer and notary, located in San Pedro, 100 meters east and 100 meters south of the Banco Popular, Apartado 7723-1000 San José, telephone 53-0889.
The immediate threat that provoked the above petition has been eliminated by the transfer of the Martita property back to its previous owners. However, those owners wish to sell the property, so its future remains uncertain. The recent experience demonstrates how vulnerable the property is to development. We hope that the property can be brought under protection before sale of the property either increases its price, or places it into the hands of an owner who would destroy the forest.