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Saving Forests One Tree at a Time

Peter Lehner

Posted April 14, 2010

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News about forest conservation is often filled with sobering facts about the damage caused by deforestation.

Just recently a United Nations study found that globally we are losing the equivalent of an area the size of Costa Rica each year to deforestation.  This is scary news; as we lose our forests so go countless species, some still yet to be discovered, and even more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Encouragingly though, the UN study also found that targeted efforts have helped slow the global rate of deforestation. While much remains to be done to save our forests, we are seeing that we can make a difference.

Last year, with the support of our members, NRDC's Revive a Rainforest initiative planted 30,000 trees in Costa Rica's Central Valley.  Our local partner CATIE, a regional leader in tropical resource management, will use this project as a model for farmers, rural communities and organizations interested in reforestation initiatives.

Photo Credit: CATIE

I helped plant one of the first trees and I'm heartened to see how big the trees in our Member Rainforest have already grown -- from just a few inches less than a year ago to nearly three feet tall.  

Our reforestation initiative is also now seeking to restore the biodiversity of 50 acres of former cattle pasture and plantation land on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Working with the Friends of the Osa (or FOO), NRDC’s Revive a Rainforest initiative will now plant up to 50 different species of trees and plants.

Photo Credit: Tina Lee & Kristine Bucchianeri

I've been travelling and working in Costa Rica for many years but had never had the chance to visit the Osa Peninsula until last year.  I was amazed by the abundance of wildlife -- in one afternoon I saw toucans, four different species of monkeys, hundreds of dolphins in the Golfo Dulce and trees full of scarlet macaws -- including one that was very friendly! The Osa is one of the wildest places on Earth and we must do all we can to protect it from the persisting threat of unsustainable agricultural and expanding real estate development.

We can restore areas that have lost their biodiversity and recreate the type of habitat where animals such as the jaguar and spider monkey can thrive again. The goal of our project with FOO is to do precisely that.

The project site will be a living laboratory, especially for young people in the Osa to learn first-hand the importance of protecting forest biodiversity. We're excited about these projects and very grateful to the NRDC members who have supported our efforts to revive Costa Rica's rainforests.

And I'm happy to say that The Walt Disney Company is also excited about our project and has selected the Cerro Osa Restoration project as one of five habitat restoration efforts that will receive support through Disney's Friends for Change: Project Green.  

Through the Friends for Change website kids can learn how to help the planet through simple every day actions - involving their friends and tracking their collective impact. Kids can also vote to help Disney decide how much support each habitat project will receive.

Disney’s initiative means that starting at an early age kids will have a real opportunity to see and learn just how important small steps like planting a new tree can be.

In fact, as we are discovering, these small steps can collectively revive a rainforest.

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Joanne EarthApr 15 2010 05:41 PM

Sounds like a wonderful place, it would be lovely to see some pictures of the wildlife.

It's really comforting to see native trees being replanted. I think there's a big difference between planting trees for sustainability, where huge swathes of pine trees, for instance, are continually replanted for furniture, and actually planting the trees that are indiginous to the local environment.

Alexander Mora VApr 17 2010 03:33 AM

It sounds really great. Peninsula de Osa is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. Most of the peninsula is covered by the national park Corcovado, public and private forest reserves. One question? who is the owner of this 50 acres you talked about? is the NRDC’s Revive a Rainforest the owner ??? just curiosity.

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