Our Planet Foundation Seeks Volunteers to Combat Climate Change in Costa Rica

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The rain forest that blankets La Amistad International and Barbilla National Parks in Costa Rica are at risk of drying up.

Due to climate change, clear-cutting, land development and lack of government protection, the forest canopy is in retreat and the underlying ecosystem in peril. Deprived of tree cover, the waterways are evaporating, leaving scant drinking water for the native tribes and locals who depend on the Danta River watershed.

William R. Hogan is one of the affected. “When I moved here twenty years ago, the river behind my house, Rio Hondo, was twenty feet wide. Now, it’s almost dry.”

The impact on local wildlife has been devastating. Once-plentiful bird populations are beginning to vanish. “Bird species are moving to higher elevations due to diminishing habitat and climate changes,” says Mr. Hogan. “They’re moving to higher peaks as prime food sources diminish. Biologists are predicting that four species will become extinct in the next five years, unless something can be done.”

It’s an alarming trend for La Amistad, an international park that straddles Costa Rica and Panama. With over four hundred thousand hectares (nearly 1 million acres) of tropical forest, this UNESCO Heritage Site is a cornucopia of biodiversity: a 2006 expedition discovered fifteen new plant species, three new reptile species and fifteen new amphibian species. Now, wildlife here is in decline.

As human activity has upset the natural balance, Mr. Hogan decided that human activity should participate in restoring the balance. He acquired farmland adjacent to the park that had been cleared but fallen into disuse and began reforestation efforts. So far, he’s repatriated five hundred hectares and planted over fifty-eight thousand trees. As the canopy matures, it will protect the exposed waterways from evaporation, but Hogan knows it’s just a single bandaid: the fate of the park, it’s inhabitants and dependents relies on humankind’s capacity to stop causing the wounds in the first place. To this end, Mr. Hogan established the Our Planet Foundation Costa Rica (Fundacion Nuestra Planeta), with a mission to protect rain-forest flora, fauna and waterways by raising awareness, education and grassroots organization.

Mr. Hogan approached the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and proposed the development of an environmental research and learning center at the gateway to Barbilla National Park, a region of La Amistad on the Caribbean side of the Talamanca mountain range. Working with the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and La Amistad Caribe Conservation Area (ACLAC), Hogan secured the funds to develop infrastructure to support eco-tourism, sustainability research and education for local and international students, and reforestation activities, with plans to build animal rescue centers, care facilities and a learning center.

“The money is in place, and I’m building the facilities right now,” says Mr. Hogan. “What we need more of is the human element. We have some professors from North America and local forestall engineers on board, but we need volunteers with the skills and passion to help design and implement the educational programs.”

Individuals or organizations interested in traveling to Costa Rica to participate should email William Hogan at Our Planet Foundation at http://www.ourplanetfoundation.com/ConactUS.html

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William Hogan
Our Planet Foundation
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