Costa Rican Environmentalist Receives Conservation Award

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez On Monday, Costa Rican environmentalist Carlos Manuel Rodriguez received the Blue Moon Fund’s first annual Conservation Leadership Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for his efforts to promote the valuation of ecosystem services in his country. Rodriguez, the former Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica and the current regional vice president and director of Conservation International’s Mexico and Central America program, has been a leader in expanding the Las Baulas National Marine Park, organizing an internationally protected marine corridor, and calling for a United Nations moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling.

Rodriguez is credited with implementing a unique conservation policy in Costa Rica, whereby the users of a forest’s environmental services, such as carbon fixation, water, and biodiversity, are required to pay the forest’s owners for these rights. By establishing an economic incentive to maintain forests, Costa Rica was “able to start decreasing illegal logging to a rate that was unprecedented in the country,” says Rodriguez. Worldwide, the average rate of illegal logging in tropical regions is some 80 percent, while in Costa Rica it is now only some 15 percent, he notes. Costa Rica is probably the first tropical country to reverse the process of deforestation, and there are now twice as many forests in the country than there were 20 years ago, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez intends to use the $150,000 award to expand the success of the program to other countries. He has met with over 17 ministers from South East Asia, Africa, and South America interested in replicating the Costa Rican conservation model. But time and political stability are required to create the proper conditions for this type of program, Rodriguez warns. “You cannot have those conditions unless you invest a lot in the political system, in governance, in human rights, and many elements around political stability,” he says.

For more background information on Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, and Costa Rica's environmental history, visit Conservation and Development: Lessons from Costa Rica.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.