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An Important Day for Costa Rican Forests

David Henifen, Charge d'Affairs for U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica
November 7, 2007

Today is an important day for Costa Rican forests, and for the country’s future.

You all here understand that the world’s forests provide essential economic, social and environmental benefits to people. While forests are renewable resources, they are also fragile ecosystems. Diminishing tropical forests are vulnerable to a host of pressures. Forest loss affects species biodiversity, deprives communities of their means of livelihood, and depletes water resources. Whether we rely on forests for sustenance or for inspiration, forest loss leaves us all the poorer.

Pictured: President of Costa Rica Central Bank Francisco de Paula, Costa Rican Ambassador in Washington Tomas Dueñas, The Nature Conservancy’s Zdenka Pskolivich, Minister of Environment Robeto Dobles, Charge d'Affaires David Henefin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Stagno, Vice-Minister of Finance, Jenny Phillips, Conservation International’s Manuel Ramirez [State Dept. Photo 2007]My government also understands this. The Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1998 to offer eligible developing countries options to relieve certain official debt owed the U.S. Government while at the same time generating funds to support tropical forest conservation activities. The TFCA is intended to strengthen civil society by creating local foundations to support small grants to NGOs and local communities. To date, most of the agreements, like Costa Rica’s, have also included funds raised by U.S.-based NGOs.

With this agreement, Costa Rica joins other neighbors in the region - Belize, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Jamaica, Paraguay, and Panama- that have made use of this instrument to help protect their countries’ forests. Globally, the U.S. invested nearly USD 95 million in 13 TFCA agreements with countries from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Together, these agreements will generate more than USD 163million.

Our agreement today is made possible by a more than USD 12 million donation from the U.S. government and a more than 2 million contribution from Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy. It is expected to generate approximately USD 26 million through 2024. Its Board will include representatives from the two governments, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and civil society, and will make decisions on supporting activities that will help conserve Costa Rica’s tropical forests and the species that depend upon them.

Charge dAffaires, a.i. David Henifin ,right, congratulates Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affaires Bruno Stagno on the conclusion of the TFCA agreement, while Vice-Minister of Finance, Jenny Phillips looks on. [State Dept. Photo]This support will ultimately be measured not by dollar amounts but by what this investment achieves. The funds will be used to protect the Talamanca forests that shelter most of Costa Rica’s indigenous peoples; the Nicoya forests that provide water to Nicoya’s farming communities and tourist havens; the forests north of Rincon de la Vieja that provide buffers for species adapting to a changing climate; and the forests that host macaws and other endangered species in Maquenque, Tortuguero, and Osa.

Our agreement today builds on Costa Rica’s impressive commitment to protecting biodiversity. GRUAS, for example, is a joint effort by the Costa Rican government, academic and research institutions and NGOs like Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy to identify gaps in the protection of Costa Rican ecosystems; this joint analysis guided our choice of regions on which to focus our resources. We are pleased to be able to provide concrete backing to elements of President Arias’ Peace with Nature Initiative, and hope that our joint efforts on TFCA will bolster other Costa Rican policy priorities in the service of sustainable development.

I would like to thank the many individuals and organizations that made this agreement possible Minister of Environment Robeto Dobles, and his team - Ruben Munoz, Patricia Marin and Lesbia; Minister of Finance and their legal advisor, Rosibel Bermudez; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Stagno, and Juliana Borbon; Conservation International’s Manuel Ramirez; all the Costa Rican Central Bank personnel; The Nature Conservancy’s Zdenka Pskolivich, Irene Suarez, Grettel Bennes, and Jose Monge; Department of the Treasury’s Katie Berg; Ambassador Mark Langdale for his personal interest and our team at the Environmental Hub.

Thank you all, we are saving something special and important for the future.



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