Surrounded by nearly 50 giggling elementary school children, I set out with LRFF’s Roberta Ward Smiley and Jimmy Acosta through a flooded cow pasture near Upala, Costa Rica to plant trees as a part of our foundation’s “For the Monkeys” project. Titled as such because of the importance of the area for Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, and White-Faced Monkeys, the project includes expanding a forested river corridor by roughly 6,000 trees of over 100 different varieties. However, I quickly discovered that planting with the school children that day was more an exercise in planting ideas in the minds of Costa Rican kids than planting seedlings in Costa Rican soil.
Just a few weeks earlier, when preparing for the planting, we learned from local workers that many of the people surrounding the project viewed the local monkeys as more of a nuisance than a valuable (and increasingly threatened) population. Without the support of the local community, new or recovering forests and their many animal inhabitants are unlikely to prosper. Because of this reality, community outreach is an important part of many of our projects, including “For the Monkeys.” Thus, to help educate and enthuse the local community, we met with the director of the local elementary school – a quick, five-minute walk away from the planting site. She agreed that a field trip to the planting site would be an educational, hands-on experience for the local children, and a fun way for them to learn about LRFF’s work and the importance of tropical forests.
…And so we found ourselves leading a group of neatly uniformed children through waist-high grass and muddy puddles, their laughs, screams and chatter complementing the calls of the insects, birds and monkeys. Although we at LRFF rarely meet a group as excited as we are about planting trees, on this day we were undoubtedly outshined by the tiny hands eagerly reaching for trees and lovingly patting down handfuls of dirt around the freshly planted seedlings. In less than 40 minutes, our petite but powerful posse planted over 150 trees.
While the children learned about the local flora, fauna and planting process, I received a lesson in the unbridled enthusiasm of Costa Rica’s littlest environmentalists. As the policy-makers, farmers, landowners, entrepreneurs and scientists of tomorrow, these children are truly the key to conservation. If we can continue to nurture their natural passion for the environment, I think our forests have a very bright future.
Although trees provide the foundation of many healthy and vibrant tropical ecosystems, even the largest trees that we plant or preserve require ongoing monitoring for the length of their lives. This makes your support critical not just for native tree nurseries and initial plantings, but also for the monitoring and maintenance that inevitably follows in the years to come. This month, the La Reserva Forest Foundation was reminded of just how important continuing observation – and sometimes intervention – is for the forests and communities we work with.
Franklin and his wife envisaged that their once bare land could be returned to lush, native forests. In 2011, their dream came true when La Reserva Forest Foundation helped them plant 4,000 treeson four hectares of their land in the indigenous Maleku Reserve. Though Frank’s wife sadly passed in January of this year, Frankhas continued to cherish and care for their new forests. Now, just 3 years after planting, the formerly degraded land that surrounded their home is a beautiful and valuable habitat.
However, when we visited Frank this month, we found him distraught after finding that a neighbor had gone into his forests and cut down many of his prized trees. Though the trees are protected by both Frank’s tenure, a 5-year contract with La Reserva Forest Foundation, and arguably international law, property disputes or intentional deforestation for financial gains are ever-present threats here in Costa Rica.
After a visit to the freshly cut trees, we provided counsel to Frank, contacted the police and explained the situation. The police responded and pursued conversations with the neighbor, establishing the legal reality that protects the trees. Although the forest in question will undoubtedly continue to face threats from people seeking to benefit from its land or lumber, we left optimistic that Frank’s trees and his wife’s dream would be protected.
And so we say to our audience and supporters: Thank you for your support, not just for new projects and plantings, but also for your support between projects. You allow us to serve as the eyes, ears, and advocates of the forest when no one else can.
I’ve been putting off writing this progress report but now have reached the deadline. In our last progress report I explained about how we have applied for the Whitley Award and how part of the funding from the prize will be used to implement this project.
Matt Lee and I have been sitting on pins and needles this past month waiting to for the result, this is why I’ve been waiting to post this report. No news yet but in the interim we have received some other funding opportunities that constitute Plan B.
One of the newer members of the LRFF/US board has a close connection with a foundation on the east coast who have micro grants available to grassroots organizations like ours. Only from $1000 - $3000 each but we can plant 1000 trees for $3000 or 300+ trees for $1000. All we have to do is find smaller planting projects or even an educational project would be eligible.
Ever since this opportunity revealed itself I’ve been turning it over in my head, wondering how I could find projects of such a small size and then, voila…I remembered that Restoring Forests in Guatuso is a single project made up of a lot of smaller projects owned by six different landowners. Why not do some of these as individual projects? Really why not…please watch for the next report and see where this goes. ‘
We are planting other projects so be sure to check out the photos below of our most recent planting in the Maleku Reserve at the beginning of December.
But in the meantime please share this project that you believe in, believe in enough to donate your hard earned $$ for. Everyone is anxious to get their nurseries started, so…
We Can Get Planting!!
We have been interested in submitting an application to the Whitley Award Foundation in the UK for a couple of years now but never got around to it. This year, in fact just four days ago, we submitted our application for the 2014 Whitley Award.
The award honors a person, that would be me, but is actually a grant for a project and the funding must be used within one year from receiving the prize. The prize is £35,000 or about $57,000 (USD). Matt Lee, President of LRFF/US, and I worked for a couple of months on the application and in the beginning we only wanted to apply to fund the feasibility study on the forest carbon project we’ve had developed for 5 years now. But that’s only $15,000…we had to figure out some other projects to fund and voila we thought of “Reforesting Guatuso”.
The funding would be disbursed next May or June but after the finalists are announced later this year each makes a trip to the UK. If LRFF does receive notification of the prize we can get the landowners started with their nurseries at the beginning of 2014 so that planting can begin as soon as the funding is received in May or June.
Since you are a part of this project, you’ve contributed generously and helped make it happen, I want you to consider putting this award and potential implementation of “Reforesting Guatuso” in the back of your mind, send us positive vibrations. Why, my friend, Cagan Sekercioglu has won the Whitley Award twice, in 2008 and this year he was the Gold Award winner. Number one alumnus of the award and he does the same sort of work as LRFF is doing, connecting forested areas working with local landowners for the benefit of birds, wildlife, plants and climate change mitigation.
Hey, I already feel the vibes comin’ this way.
LET’S GET PLANTING!
What thrills you? Does viewing a gorgeous pink, orange, and wispy cloud sunset on a warm evening from the beach? Or maybe jumping out of a plane with only a parachute at hand to glide you down to safety? Or reading a good book curled up under a blanket by the fire with snow gently falling out your window? For LRFF, and I’m sure any non-profit organization, it’s getting a project funded all at once by one generous donor!
To conclude their awesome Costa Rican vacation, long time LRFF supporters Tom and Tammy Scala surprised Roberta and Dan by offering to fully fund a project. After considering a few, they all agreed on a significant part of this project, “Restoring Forests in Guatuso” and will get 500 trees planted on Angelo Cruz’s property next February! $1,225 later, Roberta was jumping with joy, intern Courtney was shaking her head in amazement, and Dan had a huge smile on his face.
The greatest THANK YOU in the universe to the Scalas for your enormous generosity and genuine friendship! Tom might even be able to return to Costa Rica in early 2014 to assist in planting the baby trees. Any and all donation amounts are significant; each time Roberta sees a donation come in that contributes to funding a project, she smiles with happiness and appreciation, but when one donation completely funds a project that built up happiness gets to be released in a dance of joy. Very cool to see and experience. Can’t wait for more pebbles and boulders of generosity to come! WE LOVE OUR DONORS! LET’S GET PLANTING!!
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