1r~:t.~,~t. ~:rl~~I~·f~n~ ~~ [J ('ie
1t, ,_::,]1:J 198:
,~ J""~
tly: C'. H.
''i l' 8'S'
R. Di r2('.
G. C:. Gn:-tn,
~.l. C. p1)m~ro.,
F. G Stik.:
G °lle-1J8) 8nd
D. E \~··ib(.n
flL~ l
V'le reluctantllJ summarize thi3 report belo . . i. \I·!h'J reluctantl1J'? Because
feel that much of
the problem in Corcovado stems from the very human desi re to \y'ant to condense a complex
problem 1nto a few S1 mple policy statements, thereby 19nori ng the operational details that truly
make the difference between 8 success and a fail ure in planni ng and predicti ng the behavior of a
complex system .. Evict the gold mi ners, yes. But the details of
it is to be done are the' real
story. Declare a state of emergency for the Park Service, lJes. But \I"hether eviction succeed~
depends not on its declaration but rattler \\Ihat one does \\Iith the 'resources thu~; made available.
Do the gold mi ners damage the Par-k? Ves., but not 'w'ithi n the de'tails of thei r understandi ng of
either 8 national park or the \%rd "damage". Discuss Corcovado, IJes. But recognize that it is
only a specific case of the general challenge to the entire park system, and Ulerefore details \'telJ
beyond Corcovado need to be discussed.
1. The gold miners . in the recent past and present, have already come vertJ close to
destroying all the aquati[: ecoslJstems in the soutrlern thlrd of the Park. Furthermore, they and
thei r farmi og/huoti og arltecedent$ have eli mi nated the game ani mals i 0 this portion of the Park .
and Hie presence of the go1d mi ners and Hlei r associ8te~; ~~; clearl y the major i mpe!ji ment to H:e
return of these vertebrates. For these . and f1 variety of smaller impact r-easons, \\Ie feel that the
permanent ceeeation of all mi ni ng activity \o/ithi 0 the Perk i5 i mperat;ve W'ithi n the upcom; ng
fe\'1 months.
2. The miners and dependents . . lithin the Park at present number bet'w'een 800 anlj 2200
(1400 being the most likely average) and are by and large hard-'y/orking., thoughtful and
respectful people 'We are confide:-It that the majorit1J ' . . i1llea.ve.voluntarily 'w'flen requested in a
non-antagonistic manner, and Ulat much of thei r presence over Hie pa;;;t 5 years has been
analolJous to someone parked on a yel1o'l'/ curb, ,\/atching for Hie traffic police to come alon9 an,:!
tell them to move on. They 'w'ork in the Park, rather than the gold-bearing lands outside of the
Park, not only beC8uee it is a high yie19 area but becalJse the lands outside the Park heve either
been already mined by comp3flies or are pr;vatellJ o"lined by individual~; hosiile to invasion by
gold mi ners.
3. The
of gQld mi ners range from "old time" miners to. highly.c?mpetent modern
professionals aided by small group) of apprentices. H:e modern rni ne'rs and hel pers corditute at
least 90% of Ule mi f1E't"s 'vlorki fig i!' nle Park.; it appears that at least 50 %of these people have
otr!t r so urees of i nco me i n addUi 0 n to tilei r mi ni ng activities i n Ule Pa n:We 'w'e re struck by
bl)rin;~ ~r;d
IJolJng person
int.el1ect. IHll IJ unde"ieloped live:3le: blJ the
b) fto . . . . little;j
to 5fI0"I/ for flis time ~;pent as art apprentice t.o a proie::.sional miner. All
r:liners appeared to be attracted
ttle possibilit1d of ·'strikirtlJ it
but infact
more Ulan
4. The "gold miners" of Corco va do are much more than the people knee-dee'p in mud and cold
vater. The "gold mi ners" are also an atTa'J of commercial interests that vieW' the cash flo\v' from
the miners as the economic salvation of the area (andtheir stores): They are also the many .
lando'w'oers outside of the Par k 'Who are oot eager to have the mi oers from the Part turoed lease
thei r private lands. All of these people \·. .m react differentl y but negativel y to the eviction of
the mi ners from the Park. Several months of advanced planoi ng, both inside and outside of the
Park, are still needed for the eviction to "tlork "Iiell in the fece of the various forms of oposition.
It is our opinion tt,at one oftr,e most productive!. but as yet unexplored, area$ is tr,at of
providi og a good and free transportation system for the mi ners both to leave the Park and to
leave the area. accompanied by an opportunity for p'urchase of thei r used eQui pment at a
reasonable price by private fi rms if they 'w'ish to sell it.
5. We 'Were consistentl y impressed by the desi re~ of the mi ners (and associated persons)
for detailed information on thei r future, what exactl y is a Park, what ki nd of damage are they
causing, can it be avoided, etc.
desires vere generally accompanied by statement~;, oftei.
rich in misi nformation . that appeared to give a log,cal or humanitarian base for the presence of
the miners in the
This is a population
for discus~;ion and education, and \v'e feel that
"!uch of the potential acri many over the eviction can be avoided by an intense educational
program for :leveral
prior to the eviction;
5. Corcovado National Park 'W'as establisherj 8S 8 forest vithina forest, \v'ith little threat
other Ulan an occasional hunter. Civilization in the form of gold mi ni ng and farmi fig has no'",'
marched right up to and beyond i13 inland boundaries . and the entire concept of protection and
development of the Park demand8 intense educational and economic integration 'w'ith thi8
community outside of the Park. This requi res relocation of. ranger stations and the central Pat-k
administration, a change in emphasis among the ParI: ~:.ongers from policing to public relatlOn~;J
and an. increase in the number of educable young
Rangers until invasion is no longer a
mojor threet. It al~o requi re~ that the Perk Sen/ice deveiop e protocol to deel with the conti nous
upcoming pressure for ti mber. land and other resources that are bei ng soved '·Ilitm n the Parks.
The gold in Corcovado is not exceptional as 8 threat, arid in fact t~e timber in the Park is alreadlJ
more than the gold. Wit hi n the next 20- 30 years, Costa Rica's par ks 'vIill become
storehouses of i ncredi bl y val uable resources 'vI~,ich 'vIill be ever more desi red blJ the
commercial i neli nations of the country.
6.' Hie present and future preservation of Corcovado li.es not onl y' i n Hie Park Service
of Hie details for a face to f::ce inter~ratlon IJ/ithin the community, but in Hie Park
as a tourist and educational in3titutlOr, being an integral part of the deveioprnent plan:; for the
region in the other gO'v'er-nment agencies. The ParI:: Service is a loqical coordi nator for suct! Eln
inter-aqency interplay, seeinq a$ ho'w' it more trlan any other single Coet.o Rican goverrlrnent
i nstitutioo depends on the good v/ill and support of vi rtuall y·all major governmental agencies.
7. The central San Jose effice ef the N::Jtional Perk Service hes tended to be distent from the
preblems in the individual Parks. We explicitllJ reccmmend a substantialllJ greater mevement
persDns from the central effice into. field ci rcumstanc:es, longer teurs ef duty fDrpark
di rectors in particular p3rks (perhaps i nterspaced \o/ith an eccas;cnal '\\,'orl:; ng leave of absence
in the central offi!:e) , substantia1 overlap beh·,1een i nGomi ng and Dutgoi ng park di rectcrs,
\"ritten management/o.peratienal plans specific to. individual parks and to. be follo.W'ed by
successive di recters, and the fondi ngof a position for a perscn \\.'ho·s explicit task it is to
regularil y visit all Parks and prepare brief eye-\Yitness repcrts 0.1'1 majcr pendi ng problems.
There is also. a streng tendency fer park persennel to detlect decisions up\\/ard . to. use ttlei r
superler-s as a shield (and therefore to. not act \I'hen that shield is not in place). Someho\·/ the
Park Service has got tcbecom a celJecticn Df independent i ndividuels that generall y·make
harmonious decisions because they recognize a common goal rather than si mpl y because they
share a master.
8. 'We recognize that the fi rst-draft suggesticns \·/e have cffered
erten requi re as much
an i nfusien cf resources to the 'park Service as a change in di rection or attitude atll)ut resource
use. \Vhile the Park Service has built a magnificent start through the generosity of the Costa
Rican government, ~upplemented by international
from individueh ond org8niz8tion~.
it is clear that duri ng the next fe'w' decades of pressure on its parks, perhaps as much as e
doubli og of the resource base \Ym be requi red just to give high quality mai ntenance and
solidarity to the Par ks as al ready established. It is this ki nd of mai ntenance fundi n9 that is the
~Ia rde~;t
to 0. btai n, 'Jet a bso 1ute 1y the mcst cri ti ca 1. We feel t hat Hie re 8 re at 1ea~;t t'w'o as ye t
undeveloped Seurces. private funds ·'hlithi.n Costa
and the tourist 'w'ho is Quite . . lilling to P81J
. .lell for Quality gliide 'and educaticnal.services \"iUlin the Park system. The latter may to some
degree coinpete 'w'ith the
tour industry, but it cculd use some hcme-gro'w'n competion .
end the numercus biologisb W'orking in·Ccsta Rican parks might 'w'ell be dra'w'n on for
intellectual contri butions.
There 1S a third sOlJrce,
le;;s conyentional. Those philanthropic institutions that
concern themselve~ Itlith poverty, nutriticn, and other seemi ngl y more di rect human needs than
nationai parb could perhaps be induced to. recognize that in a regicnal develcpment scheme
(such as is the onllJ trlJe long-ter-m sol ution to the 03a Peni n3ula) the g081 is not to produce 8
large number of tlarel y literate and self- rnai ntai ni ng human draft eni rnals but rather to support
a mUGh sm;jl1er nlJmber ofinte-llectlJ.'lll J \Yell-developed hlJrn~ns ·'/I·ith Hit time, ability and
inclination to errjolJ Hit ric~les of humanity. SUC~I a goal clearll) calls for a high-quality
naturall lJ diver.:.e c('unterpoint ~;uctla.:. Corcovado ~c balance the hum-drum dreat"ine3~;of
\·/hat he really liked about Corcovado 'was not the gold but the tt-anquilHy.
many of you
,. . ould choose to plece IJour house in the middle of e CO\'I pe$ture? T'v/enty yeer$ from nw the
most val uable hectares in private hands on the Osa Pem nsula are goi ng to be \·. . in,i n 200 m of the
boundaries of Corco'v'ado National Park'.
This is a report on the contemporary impact of gold mi-ni ng in Costa Rica's Corcovado National
Park, W'ith suggestions as to hoW'to reduce the threat to the Park, to the Costa Rican National
Park Service, antl to other conservation efforts 'Within Costa Rica. It deals . . /ith more than just
the Park and Hie eviction of the gold mi ners Ulat occupy it; the problem is clearl y inseparable
from the larger ecosystem made up of, at the 'very least, the National Park Service, Costa Rican
society, and all Costa Rican vtildlands earmerked for present or future preservation or W'ildland
rna nage me nt. The Costa Ri ca n Nati 0 na1 Pa r k s yste mis the fi nest in the Neot ro pi cs, but it \·;as
established, and has evolved, during relatively benevolent years and in a society tklt 'Was
mentall y and economicall yin favor of itsexistence. Costa Rica is enteri ng a ne'W epoch for this
country, a ti me ",then resource harvest technology and pOp'ulation gro\v·th are becomi ng
131 most
undefeatable contenders for the every-day-more-valuable resources 'vIithin her nationai parks
Today they 'Want Corcovado's gold, tomorrov it 'Will be her timber, andthe day after . rler land.
For the survival of conservation in Costa Rica, and by example, in much of the Neotropics . it is
imperative that the National Park service groW' until it
the tradition~ and protocol to deal
\\lith these threat3 by the act of i mbeddi ng the Parks as fi rmllJ in the hearts and mi nd~; of Costa
Ricans as are its schools and churches.
Brietly, the problem is the follo'vling.Corcovado National Park was established in 1975.as
about 36,000 ha of the fi nest lo'Wland rai nforest ever to be preserved in t"lesoameric3.At the
ti me . stream deposit gold \o'as kno'Wn to occur·i n the southern thi rd of the Park and some placer
gold mi ni ng had been occuri ng in the envi rons of the Park for at least 50 years.
ovi fig
to a boomi ng national economy and the 10'111 prjce of gold, mi ni ng in the Park (as origi nalliJ
conducted by less than 10 "old time" stream bed miners that lived a hermit-like
life and \\Iere vie\\led as Quai nt members of the fauna, They W'ere allo··. . . ed to stay 'v/hi1e the
farmers in the Park 'were bought out and ·relocated. In 1980, and about the·time that the'Co8ta
Rican economy collapsed and the price of gold shot up, the Park boundaries 'w'ere increased (noli/
enclosi ng about 43,000 ha) to make the
more of a solid geometrical figure, to i nC.l ude its
unique (and tin'J) 08k-inhabited cloud forest, and to insure that all parts of the Pa'rk's 'r'flajor
drai nage baisi ns 'y/ere totell y inside ttle Park, At ttle ti me of Ulis amplification of tr:e .Park, the
ne'Wly incorporated rivers 'were 'Well knu··. . . n to be rich in .gold
(as ..../ere
those inside
boundaries in the southern third of the Park) and 'were occupied b'J somt number less than 50
some'What "old time" gold miners. During the follo'y/ing five years
steepll} hilly southern third of the Park (about 75% old Park and 25%
invaded blJ an
fie ...·..
number of modern placer gQld miner:. (oreros,
Hie present) ,. Hie
area) v/a{ rapidllJ
each one
of \y'hich entered relativel y i ndependentl y rather than a3 pad of a syndicate, cooperative or
company. ·The mi ni ng intensity per per$on rapidllJ evolverJ uP\\iard, end the damage to
terrestrial and aquatic slJstems steadil y accumul;jted.
~~ presen~,
the southern thi rd of the Park
(Figure 1) is severely altered by the virtual elimination of its game animah and by the
conversion of al most all watercourses to sedi ment-laden and sterile channels.
The pendi ng perturbation of Corcovado by the gold mi ni ng, and the horri ble social problem
that it posed, began receivi ng attention by concerned Park Service functionaries from its
inception. The Park Service files contai n letters and i n- house reports, as \\/ell as
.other Costa Rican admi nistrative bodies', that contai n a variety of suggestions and \'lorries.
Several small-scale abortive attempts \y'ere made at dislodgi ng the mi ners from a fe\y' area$ of
high visi bility. The resulti ng sparks rei nforced the traditional vie\.;" of the Osa Peni nsula (the
site of Corcovado) as Costa Rica's lawless "outback" and the problem as bei ng too large for the
resources of the Park Service to deal
The result has been a lacl~ of calculated activity by
the National Park Service. This inactivity came atro·ut through a combi nation of fear'..
key admi nistrators . hope that Hie problem would just go a'w·ay . a feeli ng of hel plessness agai nst
the large r problems besetti ng the Costa Rican 9r)vernment in general, indecisive admi nistrators
few local
personal lack of involvement with the specifics of the problem except by a very
and a (correct) feeling that Park Service tinancial and personnel
reso IJ rces "le re i nadeq uate .
. . Corcovado National Park 'W8S establlshed as 8 large block of forest 'Wit hi n alarger yet block
of forest, faci ng onto the Pacific and centered at Sirena. "Civilization" is gobbling up the forest
surrounding the Park along its inland side, and over the past five years, the backside of the Park
has become the front side.; the Park Service has on1 y recentl y come to recognize 'Where lie the
true problems that confront Corcovado. Hovever, in recognizing this, it rl8S also become obvious
that many more resources are needed to mai ntai n the Park than previousl y antici pated, and that
these resources have to be used differentl y than would be the case were this 1970. The reason
\y'hy most banks are not robbed by most people is not the presence of a guard with a gun;
Corcovado, just 8S 'with the other Costa Rican parks, can survive only in like manner .
. In on~ ~entence, the belief prevalent among tho~e "lith the power to act in Corcovado 'lIa~ that
the situation could onl y be resolved \lIith ITIfljor force 'or major planni ng/development by the
go;./ernment as a . .1 hole , and both of these have been unavailable. It is elso clear that Costa Rica
rl8s gotten itself into Hie curious situation of bei ng very good at attraCti.ng support to preserve
natural areas, but has not yet developed the kind of har'd- nosed managerial drive, budget and
polic'J to preeerve ttroee areae in the face of riei ng social preeeuree. Leek 'of ectivitlJ to·'liarde a
301 ution
in Corcovaljo \1aS also exacerbated by a general fail ure in Cr)sta Rica, from the
President's uffice to the taxi driver, to understand that the venJ large amount of tourht,
research and ct)n;.erva~ion ~upport received by CO$ta Pica is as mlJch,if not more, dependent on
international faith in Costa Rica's governmental $olidne$$ and secure 10n9 term development as it
is on Costa- Rica's enormous natural biological riches. 'We no\. . stand at a point 'Where the
i nte r nati 0na1 co nse rvati 0 n co mmunit y needs to !;;ee that Cost;j Ri ca'~; 18'v1s and ::;oci et IJ ca n i n fact
protect and sustain that 'Which the 'World 'Wants to see conset-ved in the natural envi ronment. Its
not enough tojust buy the land, but it has to be maintained'(which is a much less attractive item
to pote nti a1do no r~;). This fact has bee n long uode rstood bIJ the Pa r~: Se rvi ce 8d mi ni st r8ti 0 n.
Corcovado is obvio'us1y a test case for this specific need, and it is also a major poiot in the
evo1 ution of a protective protocol fot- the 100mi ng future \l/hen it is not gold but ti mber, land, '
\y'ater, and who kno'Ws 'What other ki nd of product that a park's neighbors 'Want.
In these months 'yle are at the junction \\/here mant,l forces 'Wit hi n the Costa Rican
co nse rvati 0n syste m real ize that evi cti 0 n of t he gold mi ne rs fro m Co rcovado is neceSS8 r y, but
there is still substantial confusion over how' to go about it, how' to ameliorate its effects on the
mi ners and the s,urroundi ng community, t~ 'What degree it is absol ute1 y necessary for
Corcovado's survival, and hO\l1 to mai ntai n the Park re1ative1 y free of human i ntl uence for 'the
i ndefi nite future. The goal of this field study is to comment on all these thi ngs 'w'ith the hope of
, 1ncre8~;i ng the range of choices from vlhich Costa Ricans have to choose. Asecond goal is to
formalizethe problem, to promote its elevation from the status of rumor to that of a concrete
threat to tropical conservation.
While this is the f1 rst report on the problem by an international group, at least six i n- house
reports have been developed by Park Service committees and other Costa Rican agencies in the
past five years. Among the most notable are
a. Chris Vaughan's "r'1anagement and development plan for Corcovado" (published by the
National Universit'J, 1981). This plan and detailed Park descri ption 'w'8S oriented tow'ard
Corcovado a~; a \y'i1derness area raUler than as an appendage to alarge agricultural zone;
Vaughan's highl y relevant boo k contai ns much of the the general information i ncl uded her'e (and .
much more) , but i 0 much more detail and 1acki ng & consideration of the consequences of the past
five years of conflict 'w'ith the gold miners.
b. Goez Schwerholz (F AO. cOflsultant), worki ng 'With the central Park Service office,
produced a document (late 1.980) "Suggestions for the planning of protected areas in the Osa
Peninsula". V. . e have been unable to locate it. This document 'Was ho'Wever amplified by the Park
Service into an undated 1981 report "Plan for the fi nanci ng of Corcovado National Park", 'w'hich '
is essential1 y a detailed t,udget justification for an attempt to solve Hie gold mi oi ng problem "
through increased patrolling, It also contains the first elaborations of plans to connect central
Corcovado Yiith the outside 'World at
Brazos, but the stress is on facilitati ng entry of tourists
by land rattler than (as is currently the case) by air to Sirena.
c. Eduardo Acuna Jimenez (Head Park Ranger) produced the next"Protection plan for
Corco".fado National Park" (1983). Here the stress is on the budget and legal basis for eviction qf
the miners, coupled vlith details of patrolling requirements. Relationships 'with the surrounding
communitlJ are not part of the formula other than to ':.rres$ that the Park must disp18 1J a very
strong presence.
d.1 n October 1984, various park rangers and other members of the Park Service (,.Jo~;e
Badi11a Orozco . coordi nator) submitted a report bl untl y i ndicati ng the major problem areas in
Corcovado and the central NPS office, \v·ith brief policy suggestions for thei r reso1 ution.
e. In March 19S5, an "Action plan for the e. . .iction of the gold miners" "las prepared and .
. submitted to the 1'1; nister of Agriculture and Livestock (letter from LUlS G. Mendez). This plan
and'its budget focused on the logistics and potential timetable of the eviction., and portions' of this
plan are still in operation. The budget \Vas updated on 6 May 1985 (letter from Juan Carlos.
f. On 21 March 1985, a meet; ng occurred in the central P:jrk offices that presented
alternatives and discussed progress to date.
g. On 6 May 1985, a meeti ng of Park Di rectors occurred in IN'hi ch a brief list of po1i(:IJ
suggestions "/ith respect to the eviction was prepared.: vi rtuall y all of these suggestions are
present; n the current report, al beit in various expanded and modified version~;. To emphasize
that the Park Service contai ns a body of concerned and involved personnel} \o/e brief] y list tile
s'Uggestions contai ned in the t1ay report:.
1. Involve all Sections of the National Park Service in the problem, and in this manner
make the problem one affecti ng the enti re NPS. :
2. Have the Section of Envi ronmental
i nsitute a program at the nationalle'lel,
using radio, press and television.
3. Accumulate slides and other visual materials and develop them into relevant .
audiovisual programs.
. 4. Reinforce the Environmental Education program 'vIith the various Park
dra'vln in from the other parks.
5. The Oi rector of NPS should notify the international community and ask for hel p from
'the Costa Rican government.
6. The lldminbtrlltor~ of other park3 need to m~ke them~elve~ llnd their per30nnel
available for partici pation (i n the eviction) .if necessary.
7. The Section of Research shou1d'i nitiete a sociological lanthropological study of the
problem, and make the necessary contacts for ttlis.
8. Form a 'vIorking group from the Park Service (Planning Section) that will visit the
area and document the envi ronmental impact, oS a bose for the other progrems.
9. Designate a telephone number ttlat gives out information on the situation in the Park .
. 10. The Park Service must declare 'w'hat is actuall y protti bited in the are:j, especiall y with
reference to gold mi ni ng.
11. In case of emergency, the Di rector \lli11 close ttlose an::as necessanJ so as to obtai n
sufficient'and rapid personnel resources for the Park.
12. The Director should obtain;3 declan}tion from thE' MinistrlJ of AI~r-icljltljre and
Livestock, and from the Mi nistry of Government, that Hley 'w'iil aid and if nec:es~;ary, dec:lar-e the
Park a national emergency zone.
13. Designate a group from the Construction Section to t1egi n con~;truc:tion of the La Leone
Guard Station.
14. Rei nforce the area \\"ith '\\Ieapons brought from other parts of the Park system, and
insure that necessat'y ammunition is available.
15. Start a program to eval uete the situation in the 5i rene, Claro and t"ladrigel watersheds;
, \o/e should'record names, cedula numbers, location, numbers·of persons, and point of origin. At
the same time., these people should be notified that they have to leave the Park before 1 JuliJ.
16. The Legal Section should obtai n ~n eviction order from the rel evant author-iti es.
17. Hold a meeti ng \-lith the farmers in Ca'FIaza.
On the one hand" it seems odd that a group composed large1.y of foreigners has prepared Hils
re po rt; hO\\leve r, it see med necessa r y to get an 0 utsi de 0 pi ni 0 n becs use the Pa r k Se rvi ce itse1f
has been havi ng difficulties developi ng a clear view of the problem and its sol ution, On the other
hand, conser . . . ation biology i n Co~;ta Rica has a1'w'ays had a strong international- component and it
is very reasonable for the Park Service to vie\o/ the international community as one of its
personnel resources. In this sense, the report is still an in-house report, albeit largely
prepared by persons under salary to other institutions.
The field studlJ \Vas suggested and supported by a grant from tne World Wildlife Fund (US)
and by the Fundacion de Parques Nacionales de Costa Rica. 'P1anning began on 1 June 1985, a 38
km field inspection on foot wit hi n the Park occurred from 25- tiO June} a 1 hour 10\\"-a1titude
inspection flight over..very inaccessible areas occured on 28 June, a public meeting \-lith Puerto
Jimerlez residenh 'and gold miners 'was held on the night of 27 June in Puerto Jimenez, and 8
:o;emi-public meeting 'n'aS held ·. ./ith government agencies and other interested parties in San Jose
on 1Jul y. In the. Park, VIe examined portions of 11 different river systems on the ground, and 6
more from HIe ai r'; si nee much of the damage by gold mi ni ng occurs dO\-lnstrearn from the
\y'orki ngs, 'vIe did. not feel it to be necessary to exami ne long 1en9ths of stream bed to obtai n a
correct impression oh/hat 'vias happening, We also had access to several recent reports
prepllred by the Par~: Director and Park Rangers, as \oIell as to a verlety of historical documents,
Hovever, background preparation 'vias hindered blJ the absence ofa filing slJstem in the central
office 'w'tlereby all materials perti nent to Coreo'lado National Park could be found in one file.
This report "yas 'driHen by the org~nizer of the field inspection (D. H. Janzen) from 2-16
Jul yin Costa Rica, and constructivel y criticized by V·l. Halh. . achs (Cornell Univer·sitlJ).
The field i n~ pection of the Park and some of it~ en'li ron~ \\'es the centerpiece effort of the
studlJ. The goals of the inspection \vere the follo·. .li ng:
1. To 'Witness and descri be the actual amount} extent and ki nd of damage done by the gold
mi ners to the biological systems inside of the boundaries of Corcovado National Park.;
si multaneousl Y, \v'e considered \y'hether they could be allo\iled to conti nue to mi ne on a controlled
2. To make a rougrl estl mate of the number of gold mi ners (and dependents) in the Park, and
to eval uate other esti mates that have been made of this number.
3. To discover the attitudes of the gold mi ners to\'/ard the illegalities of thei r activities,
to\\lard thei r understandi ng of thei r damage to the Park, and tOw'ard thei r upcomi ng permanent
4. To understand the social and geogra~hic ecosystems in \\lhich the Park is imbedded} "11th
the intent of bei ng able to 'eval uate the multi plicity ofexternal processes and potential sol utions
that are relevant to success at maintaining the Park free of mining and other future degredation
The field inspection team feels itself moderately successful 'with respect to all four goais, and··
the body of this report contai ns the details. It is a long re.port and replete "lith ~uggestion~ and
comments. Astudy of longer duration would have been more thorough but \h'e feel . . /ould not have
arrived at substantiall y different conel usions; speed is of great i mportanee not onl y because of
the need for cessation of biological damage 'While there is still opportunity for regeneration. but
because it is evident that both the gold mi ners and·the Park Service personnel are favorabl y
pri med for immediate resol ution of the problem.
We 'Were asked by Costa Ricans, "'Who is goi ng to implement tt,is report"? Our repl y \. .·a~;
that the Costa Ricans 'Will, if they 'w'ish. Our goal 'Was to increase the number of options and to
aid in balanci ng some agai nst others. The problem and its potential sol utions are very complex;
11 ke any organism i.nteracti ng 'With its envi ronment, the interaction of the Park 'w'ith its
surroundlng envi ronment hi nges on manlJ small details.· Mi nute differences in these details can
drastically alter the direction or survival oftheentire·organism. we feel that it is folly to
attempt to predict or interpret the behavior of an orga.flism without understandi ng its natural
hiStory; Corcovado National Park is no exception. 'We feel that this report should be requi red
reading fo(aflyone dealing 'With Corcovado or the development of the Osa Peninsula.
We·vie'w' this report as one of problem descri ption and constructive criticism. As such, it
runs the riSK of appeari fig to be hardl y more Hlan a litany of compJai nts di rected at the Park
Service. Such is· defi nitely not our intent. The salient feature of the Costa Rican National Park
Service is that gro'w's and survives 'With a level of efficiency, honesty and purpose ttlatis trullJ
(llJt?tandi ng for a neotropical government agenc!J. It is 3ufficientl lJ robust and deservedl y proud
that it can call for and absorb an external revie'vl3uch as this one, and build on it. Its single
moe.t oubtandi ng \\~eakne~~ i~ ret-pondi ng to too much con~ervation need with t,··?·
The National Park 5ervice of Costa Rica has taken on an enormOU3 respc:nsibilitlJ in caring for
a large and complex park 11 ke Corcovado. It is the ki no of job that must be done 'Wen or not at all.
To do it 'v/ell requires an intimate understanding of the Park and its environs. V'le do not feel
that the situation in Corcovado is i mpossi bl y complex. We feel strongllJ that much of the current
problem in Corcoi,/ado sterns from a long history of management decisions that 'Were made either
uni ntentionall y or deli beratel y by persons that \\'ere significantl y unfamiliar vith, or
insensitive to, the traits of this particular Park and its resource and defense needs. HOw'ever,
because the problem b of this nature, 'vle are opti mistic that it can be resolved by ti mel y,
accuratel y and sensitivel y placed efforts by the Park Service. These efforts \vi11 clearl y requi re
substantiall y more cash and personnel resources than the Park Service can afford w'ith its
current budget . and 'We intend for this report to be instrumental in obtai ni ng those resource~
both inside and outside of the country. .
Comp-osition of the field i nsp-ection team.
Not all those invited \Olere able to partici pate. Criteria for i ncl usion of a person in the team
were some of the follo\\li ng: availability on i;hort notice} familiarity with tropical forest
conservation problems, familiarity 'With Costa Rica, in depth expertise as a biologist i n ~ropical
rai nfo rests, fa mi li arit y 'Wit h gove r nme nt age nci es, fa mil i arit y 'Wit h Co rcovado National Pa r k
familiarity W'ith gold mi ni ng. The team consisted of the follo\o/i ng persons. In addition, three
senior le\~el Park rangers - Gerardo Chaves, Alvaro Bustamante and Bernardo Picado - served
as guides and assisted in many 'Ways 'With data gatheri ng and commentary. The enti re inspection
\vas conducted in Spanish, as all members of the team are moderatel y to full Yf1 uent in Hlis
1. Dr. Rodolfo Di rzo. Native of Mexico J 34 years Old, professor of biology in tt,e Instituto de
BiologG, Universidad Aut6noma de Mexico (Apdo. Postal 70-233, Mexico 04510 D.F., r1ex~co).
Research and teachi ng experience as a tropical ecologist specializi ng on ani inal- plant
i nteraction~, ~pecializi ng in Veracruz and Chiapas rai nfore3t. Particularil y concerned 'with the
i nte racti 0 n of r ura1 peo p1e~; 'Wit h Nati 0 na1 Pa r ks and. ot he r ki nds of prese rved·a rees i rd he
Neotropics·. DeepllJ committed to the development of home-grown strength in biologicahtudies
in tropical countries. Partici pant ~nd facuny in several ecology courses ta ug ht in Costa Rica.
2. Ms. Gi na C. Green. Native of US, 29 years old, grad.uate student of Oxford University
(Common . . lealth ForestflJ Institute .. South Parks Road, Oxford, Englend) end Aree Silvestres,
CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica. T'vlo IJears in U5 Peace Corps in Colombia and 1 year 'v/ittl
Merenberg forest Reserve in Colombia, specializing in the interaction bet'Weert neotropie:al .
national parb and the
of their immediate
with special reference to the
val ue of the park to the surroundi ng communitlJ.
3. Dr:Daniel H. Janzen. Native of US, 46
~ear~ 010,
profe$sor of biolog~ at the University of
Pennsylvania (Department of BioloQIJ, UP, Philaljel Dllia, Pa. 19104). 23 years of research and
teachi ng in tropical ecolo9Y, focused on Costa Rica; 'w'hile a half year resident in Sa nta Rosa
Nati 0 na1 Pa r k, no rt hweste r n Costa Ri ca, he has. bee n s po radi ca 11 y doi n9 resea rc h 3po radi ca lllJ i n
Corcovado National Park since its inception in 1975 and had explored a large number of the areas
relevant to this report bet\lleen 1965 and 1984:.As his research is on the interactions of plants
and ani mals, and si nce he has spent a substantial fract; on of his life hunti ng and trappi ng, as
well as doing research, in forests, he feels CUrllpetent to comment on the impact of humans on
~uch ~ybtem~.
He ha:'!; been awere of the interaction betvteen the gold mi ner~ and the Pork from
the i ncept;on of the problem;; n fact, he \'/e;·ghed the fi rst goM confiscated from Corco"lado
miners (1980) I,y:ith his scales that are normally used to weigh moths. On 30 May 1985, Sr.
Alvaro Ugalde, the Director of the
Park Service of Costa Rica, asked him to organize this
4. Ing. Juan Carlos Romero. Native of Costa Rica, 25 years old, current and recent Director
ofCorcovaljo National Park (Servicios de
Nacionales de Costa Rica, Apdo.l0094, San
Jose, Costa Rica). 4 years of experience 'ylith·the National Park Service . as di rector of Ri ncon
de laVieja National Park and of Tortuguero National Park before Corcovado. Degree in Fore!\try
fro m t he InstH uto Tee no1ogi co. Possessed bIJ it ro ng ad mi n1 st rati ve dedi cati 0 n to reso 1vi ng
on both short and long term basis.
5. Dr. F. Gary Stiles. Native of US, 42 years old, professor of biology at the Universidad de
Costa Ri ca (Esc ue 1a de Bi 01 ogla . Uni ve rsi aad de Costa Ri ca, Ci udad Uni ve rsita ri a, Costa ~~i ca). 14
years of teachi ng and research experience ;-n Costa Rica., vith major publication productivity in
all areas of bi rd bi 01 og yin Costa Ri ca, as well as exte nsi ve resea rc h prog ra ms \II; thee rtai n
plants and insects. Personell y familiar with t.he Corcovado sites and habi tats under discussion in
thi$ report. It is commonplace to meet Stile's Costa Rican former studenb from the
Universidad in vi rtua11 y all i nsitutions and wa1 ks of Costa Rican life.
6. Sr. Gerardo Vega. Native of Costa Rica, 35 years old, highl y successful professional gold
mt ner i n:~ide tlnd outside of Corcovado National
Par·k (Lista de Correos, Canazd., Puerto Ji menez,
.peni nsu1a de Osa, Costa Rica). Three years of gradeschoo1. Hunter, farmer, and woodsman I,y'ho
"liaS a farm'er in Corcovedo at the time it becem€: a Park. Member ofU,e first generation of Perk
e.mp1oyees dra\o/n frpm former residents. V>forked as Janzen's research assistant for four years
in Corcovado and Santa Rosa National Park. Deep1 y interested in the evol ution of the
Corcovado-glJard - neighborhood interaction. .
7.. Dr. Don E. V'li130n. Native of US, 41 IJears old, mamrna1ogist, specializi ng in Neotropical
that are on the verge of exti nction (as W'el1 a$ bat system;jtics and ecology) for tne US
and Wildlife 5ervlce (US Fi,h and \tlildlife Service) National
of Natural HL:;tory,
\'\"ashi ngton, D.C. 20560). 20 years experience 'w'ith research in Neotropical mammals and in
aidi ng and abetti ng the development of Perb, t1useums and ~ti1dlife protection units from
Mexico to Paraguay. Began his post-doctoral career doing ecological research in Costa Rica.
Very familiar 'with the pitfalls of harvest and occupation in national parks.
The field team . . . . orked as a unit in the field, and onl y occasionall y separated to exami fie
different things o'r people. Impressions,and findings \-lere disclJssed extensively throughout the
field inspection tour and after meeti ngs. Our impressions \l/ere also discussed extensive1 y \\/ith
the three Park Rangers that accompanied the tour. Janzen had access to the copious notes of the
other commission members, and to any relevant files in the National Park Service office\l"herr
pre pa ri ng t hi s re po rt. Co pi es of all notes and doc ume nts ha\;'e bee n de posited i n the Pa r k
Service files along \-lith this report.
Envi ronmental i mQact of gold mi ni n9 in Corto"lado National Park
Gold mi ni ng, the illegal occupants, and the prior legal occupants of Corcovado National Park
are having, and have had . a conspicuous and substantial negative effect on terrestrial and aquatic
ecoslJstems in the southern thi rd of the Park (Figure 1). A,several month study that is rich in
biological samphng and compares the areas in the northern mi ner-free portion of the Park 'w'ith
the sCluthern mi fler-occupied portion of the Park \v'ould appear to be more rigorous than is the
commentary that follo\\,'s, but quite frankl y, it ""ould come to the same concl usions. The ~;evere
damage to the southern thi rd of Corcovado National Park is obvious (and depress; ng) to anyone
'W' ho is 'W'ill; ng to go the re see it.
And going to see it is no casual stroll out ofa car. The Park contains virtually all kinds of
topography,' from great s'w'amps to knife-edge ridges. HO'w'ever, the area of active gold mi ni ng
(the southern thi rd of the Park) ranges from 10 to 700 min elevation on extremel y dissected
terrai'n that contai ns al most no mesas and hundreds of kilometers of knife-edge ridges perched
20-400 m above very narro'W gorges and streambeds. Trails' usually climb very steeply to a
ridge top, and then continue along it, and then plunge straiq~t dO'w'n to a streambed and back up
the other side. As the streams and small rivers reach intermediate elevations (10-150 m) . they
begi n to 'W'iden and flatten out and after a course of onl y a feW': kilometers are on the coe~tal plai n
ofl-20 km \y'idth. ,Many of the trails are impassible to paCK horses,(thougn \,/ith effort, pack
trails could be constructed of multi ple s'w'itchbacks). The soil is rock-latosol mixtures and
sustai ns fooUraffic fai rl y 'Well even under this high rai nfall (2- 3 m per year) but is turned
into rocky red mud Quagmi re by horse traffic. Most of the trails are still under pristi ne forest
canopies, though the tendency for trails to connect old farms leads to many kilometers of sunny
trails as 'Well. Trails generall y do not follo'lI' riverbeds except·j n the lO'w'er parts, and the reason
often given is that 'w'ater levels can rise several meters in mi~lJtes follo'w'ing a heavy rainstorm,
leavi ng the traveler picki ng his 'W'alJ among
ina strong current.
Ter rest ri a1 he bitat3.
, The di reet and nearl y di rect impact on terrestrial habitats by the mi ners and associated
people involves, primarily the game animals (agoutiS, tepezcuintles, armadillos, brocket deer,
collared peccaries, vhite-Ji pped peccaries tapi rs,
guans curaSO'v/s and ti namous) ,
and the larger plants. Smaller vertebrate~; and i n~;eGb have- been undQubtedllJ been affected
i ndi rectl y, but descri bi ng this impact 'Would requi re more detailed kno'Wledge of this particular
ecos IJ3te m t ha n is possessed bIJ anyo ne. Cats and ot he r Iarge predato r 3
(S ria kes)
eagles, tl8V ks }
o'wls, etc.) are not discussed here, but it is clear that they have been negativellJ affected by bott.
direct hunting and by the removal of their prey.
ani mals. The southern portion of Corcovaljo National Park is essentiall y empty of game
ani 01&13. It stands in stri ki ng contrast to the central and -northern portions of the Park, areas
that have been nearl y free of hunters and gold m; ners si nce the inception of the Park in late
1975. We offer the follolh/ing more explicit commentary:
1. The study group . containing four experienced vedebrate\1atchers (.Janzen, Stiles, Wilson
and Vega) , \llal ked approxi mate1 y 38 km of forest and forest edge trails duri ng 5 days of
relativel y rai n-free W'eather. The on1 y larger mammals or bi rds seen or heard W'as one troop of
hO\l/ler monkeys (congo) in the distance, a small troop of extreme1 y fearful spider monkeys ."
(mono colorado), and on very rare occaSions, a tinamou (gallina de monte). In the northern
portion of the Park, the same amount of ti me and distance traveled in this season W'ould have
insured multi ple dall y sighti ngs of al most all of the game animals in the Park. Ti namous and
agoutis (guatusas) W'ould have been heard frequently, and occasionally tlushed. Peccaries
(sainos) \Y'ould have been smelled several times per day, and occasionally seen or heard.
2. OW'ing to a physical disability, Janzen's pace W'as slo\',1 and deliberate, and his attention
often on the ground, ground that W'as rich in surfaces of W'et mud: Duri ng the enti re inspection
tour, he encountered not e ~i ngle treck of elerger 'w'ild mcmmal or game bird. He never ~mel1ed
" "" a peccary troop. He located evidence (chi pped up fruits and seeds) of agouti or tepezcui ntle
feed; ng on a fallen fruit or seed crop in onl y one piece of forest, a small forest section crossed by
approxi matel y 1 km of trail and contai ni ng the onl y unmi ned 11oW'i ng W'ater channel (headwaters
of the Quebrada Piedras 8lancas) encountered in the southern thi rd of the Park duri ng the
inspection tour. See belol,4 for an elaboration of the significance of this poi nt.
3. Inthe past IJear, the Park has begun toask the Park rangers.to·preparewritten reports
on '·,y'hat they encountered on long inspection tours. On June 5-10, 1985, three alert and
experienced Park ranger:l 'w'al ked approxi metel y 50 km of fore~t.trai1s i ~ the southern thi rd of
the Park and their report reads: "Fauna, during the tour Ide did-not see a single example. In
addition, W'hat i3 very 'Worryi ng is that this is a sign of much passage of humans through the
area" .
. 4. Janzen has spent a good deal of his professional career exami ni ng the fate of seeds and
fruits that have fallen beneath the parent tropical tree. In Corcova~o National Park, as 'v/ell as
in other protected rainforest habitats, there are
fruits are so
hig~ll y desi red
species of trees 'y/hose seeds and
by large rodents, deer, peccaries, curasso\Y's, etc. that it is
extremel y difficult to fi nd i rrtact seeds to use in ecological experiments .. This is no longer true
for the southern thi rd of Corcovado National Park. For example_, the canteloupe-sized fruits of
(r1eliaceae: cedro emergo) rrormel1y fal1 bene;jth Ule parent, break-open orr imp;:,ct or
i!n8\·led open, and the 4-cm diameter seeds remo·/ed tty agoutis, tepezcuintles and peccaries.
has seen Hie reme; [13 of hundreds of C8r8~ fruit crops in Corcovado rai nforest but until
this inspection tour has never seen intact Carap.]. fruits and seeds lying abundantly beneath the
parent tree, slo'wi ng rotti ngi nto the litter
or germ; nati ng; for this to occur
requi res the vi rtual absence of terrest:ial herbivorous mammals. The huge rai nforest legume
tree (justa \·. . as dtoppi ng its large fruits, each c:ont.:li ni ng a s; ngle large seed. We freQuentl y
encountered large intact crops of these orange fruits, each 'vlith a brilliant- red aril inside,
beneath'the parenttrees. HO\\"ever, in the northern part ofCorcova:j(l, Janzen has al'w'ays
frustrated.i 0 efforts to 0 btai 0 more than a handful of intact Dusia fr u;ts; here there \v'ere te ns of
liters.of them. Onl y at the very head'w'aters of the Quebrada Piedras Blancas, in an unmi ned piece
of forest, did \·/e encounter large rodent attack of one Dusia seed crop. Since Dusia is dispersed
by monkeys.and (probabl y) toucans di rectl yfrom the tree cro\v'n: as 'w'ell as eaten and dispersed
by agoutis and tepezcui ntles on the ground, it is not possi ble to Knov' if the presence of large
uneaten crops on the ground belo\v' the parent tree \v'as solel y due to the absence of earth- bound
ani mals or also augmented by a greater-than- normal fruit rai n di rectl y belo'w' the parent tree
o\v'i ng .to the absence of volant or arboreal Dusia disper~;ers. The southeastern portion of
Corcovado is dotted \v'ith farmers' homesteads that have been recently purchase by the Park
these sites are rich in fruit trees such as avocados and mangos. The ground beneath
these fruit tree3 is no. . /1ittered \v'ith uneaten rotti ng fruits. Need \v'e say more?
I n sum, the southern th; rd of the Park is a giant experi ment - \v'hat 'w'ou1d happen to crops of
large fruits end large seeds (e.g., guepinol or .t!.ymenaee courbaril, [lusis, cedro emergo or
Carap..:1, .lobo or ~pondia~ mombin, canelo or Ocotea spp.) if the large vertebrates 'w'ere removed
from a rai nforest.? HO'wever, it is e ki nd of experi ment that seems inappropriate for e National
5. During the.intervie'w's \lIe 'w'ere repeatedly told by the gold miners in the Park that they did
not hunt, that thei r meat \v'as beef or pork, purchased 00 provisioni ng expedHions to the outside
or from traveli ng merchants ("A'hich 'w'ere, ; ncidentall y, the agents of very SUbstantial frail
destruction 'by horses that \v'ere illegall y enteri ng the Park: from R(o Ri ncon). As earl y a~: 1981
the list of requests dra't/n up blJ a noV! defunct mi ners' syndicate (Franci3co Badilla, president)
asked permission to keep some anim~ls, suctl as chickens, in the Park, since meat 'w'as so' hard to
get. Equally, ·.,.,Ie 'w'ere told that there 'w'as nothing to hunt. No indirect or direct evidence.'
suggested that the i nterVie\dee~ \v'ere 1yi ng. Additi0 nall y, hO'wever, Hley often commented that an
hour'svalk in thi3 or UI8t direction IlI'ould put IJOIJ into an are8 '>i/here there still"lIere animal:;; .
of the ki nd~ and size~ euiteble for hunti ng Sadl y, 'w'e ee . . .' no evidence that they ,,·/ere correct·
except 'vItlen Hie game animal paradh~ ref~rred to . .·/a3 the COt"covado basin (central Park', .
Pacific side) , an area that is largel y laCK; fig humers an.j gold rm ners. Our inspection tour often
too k us into areas re puted to have 98 me re mai ni ng . 0 ut the occ uoa nts of these areas 1i ke\"i se
thought the absent game could be found ebe\'ihere. Hlis i nfoniletion has to be re1egeted to the
status of information that the mi ners derived through out-of-date and second- hand stories about
areas they had themselves never personall Y'worked or lived in (much as is the case 'w'ith thei r
esti mates ofthe number of mi ner~ j n the Park).
Larg!LP'lents. It is obvious that the miners cut fire\\Jood, construction poles for houses and
mi ni ng 0 pe rati ans, and ma kes ma 11 c1ea ri ngs fa r ho uses. Hoy/eve r, t hel r ho use roofs are a1mo~;t
all made of plastic; 'vie \vere told by several minors that they "had agreed 'vIith the Park not to
hurt by Park
cutti ng pal m trees for roof thatchi ng and 'vIater pi pes"" This "agreement" \\/as
also of the items mentioned in the request made up by the mi ners' syndicate (Francisco Badilla)
; n 1981 'w'hen the Di rector t"laria Elena tiara 'w'as attempt; ng to negotiate 'w'ith them and produce
I~i nd
of organized statement of demands and needs. HOllle.ver} we note that such thatch roofs
are time-consuming to build, require artisan kno'w'ledge not possessed by many of the miners,
and requi re pal ret species that 'w'e observed to be very scarce. The use of pal m trunks for pi pes
has been
'w'ith 5 cm diameter flexi ble plastic pi pe. Such an understandi ng certa1 nllJ
not stopped the mi ners from killi ng vi rtuall y all of the large pal ms to eat the "pal m cabbage" or
~lJcculent ~hoot
By mi ni ng and undermi ni ng ravi ne, creek and river banks} the mi ners topple trees. In a fit
of co nse rvati a ni st ho pef u1ness} 'w'e 'w'e re told in the Pue rto Ji me nez meet; ng t hat it does not
matter if a mi ner cuts a fellt' trees . si nce 'w'ithi n 6 months another tree has grol,y'n up to take i t3
place. Mining·-induced landslides on the incredibly steep slopes of the area are frequent (see
belo\v'). While this damage is spectacular it is of relativel y mi nor importance to most
populations of large frees in any given year; hO'w'ever} accumulated over many years, it is Quite
easy to i magi ne th?t a 'w'idespread mi ni ng operation such as the one occurri ng no'w' 'w'1l1 graduall y
convert all of the high forest on 5teep 5lope5 over streams into young pri mary 5uccession}
thereby eli mi nati ng major portions of the populations of many species of trees. And in much of ...
the southern third onhe Park} easily 50% of the vegetation is perched on a steep slope over a
""ate rco urse .
. AdditionatellJ, in the areas 'w'here mining is extensively practiced, the vegetation made up of
small plant species that ere specialized for life on fairly stable ra'y'ine and creek banks} as
opposed to the species specialized for Hie unstable beds and banks of large rivers} ie si mpl y
obliterated. nese
species are Quite different from the professional colonists of
IJnstable river banb and gr8'1el bars (e.g., Heliconilj, CecroRie, Pi Rer, Ochroma) etc.).
FurUlermore, 8S 'v/ill be discussed belo'w', Hie phlJsical envi ronment of small forest streams is .
grossl y altered by Hie di rect sunlight that is let in by removi ng trees along stream banks; the
'w'ater get~ hotter, there is IO'yler oxygen content, and the banks dry faster 'w'hen the stream is
exp03ed to direct sunlight.
There is, hO'w'ever, a much more insidious kind of damage caused by populations of people in a
rai nforest, a ki nd of damage that is onl y rarel y appreciated by conservationists and onl y di ml y
perceived by esoteric ecologists. As the populations of game ani mals are removed, and kept out,
a major force in seed dispersal and seed predation is removed. These t"",li n processes are a m;~jot'
part of'w'hy Corcovado rainforest.is as it is (high species richness 'w'ith many species scattered
among each other) rather than as rai nforests on tropical islands; island rai nfot'~sts are
characteristicall y free of vertebrat~ seed dispersers and seed predators, and tend to have both
. lo'w' species richnes3 and highl y patchy distri butions of large plants. There is no doubt that if
the game-ani mal-free status of the southern portion of Corcovado Natio'nal Pari: i~; mai ntai ned'
for decades, there 'w'm be rapid and dramatic changes in the species composition and demography
of the rai nforest trees and large vi nes. These changes 'w'ill occur because competitive and
invasive abilities of the large trees 'w'i1l no longer be impeded or'aided by seed predation and
seed dispersal. While the di rections and details of such changes in competitive relationshi ps
'w'ill vary among species, it is safe to say that the di rection 'w'ill be that of reduced species
richness and more thorough occupation of certai n sites by certai n sp.ecies than is presentl y the
case. 10 short, guns aod hunti ng dogs drasticall y alter rai nforest 'without ever touchi og a
chai nsa'w'. And once the mammal populations have been severel y reduced, the lightest hunti ng
pressure and human disturbance 'w'm keep them at zero even if there is a nearby source area for
rei nvasi 0 n.
But vthy are the game animals absent? It 'w'as obvious to all
'w'ith the inspection
tour, as 'w'ell as repeatedly stated by gold miners 'w'ho 'w'ere Quite 'willing to admit to other illegal
acts, that the gold mirlers at the prese~t time are not generally hunting for 'w'ild game. There
'were no traces of ani mal remai ns (scraps of bone, teeth or ski n) around the gold. mi ners houses,
they did not h6ve hunting dogs, the.y did not have the demeanor nor field experience to be
competent hunters, 'w'e did not encounter spent cartridges or hear shots, and no firearms 'w'ere
in evidence ingold mi ners' houses inside or outside of the Park.
Ho\.;ever, hunting still does occur in the Park. Certainly the old ttme placer gold
'w'ere inveterate hunters; Janzen has eaten Park tepi3cuintle served on their tables. Park
have shot hunti ng dogs i 0 toe vici
nily of the Los Patos ranger station in recent 'Weeks, \
and gold mi nerslivi ng near Hie southeastern boundary of ~he Park ( La Torre, Rlo Agujas, RiO:
Ri neon) stated fi rml y that hunters ent.er the Pllrk from the semi - farmed land near the Pllrk. If
there is so little game in the southern thi ni of the Park, 'w'here do they hunt? Central and
northern Corcovado still has substC!ntial populations of game, as.'w'ell as.there must be some
residual ani mals in the least occupied portions of the southern portions of the Par k.
It is our opi nion that the game-free southern portion ofCorcovsdo National Park has a major
historical component that is older than the Park, 8S illustrated by the follo\\/ing scenario. Prior
to the initial Park establi~;hment there clearly was hunting by scattered farmers and gold
mi ners. from 1975 to 1980, this hunti ng may have abated, but we doubt it si nce-that portion o;f
the Park was vi rtuall y unkno\·,tn to Park personnel and unpatrolled by them. The area ne'vll y
incorporated into HIe Park (in 1.980) was obviously hunted by the
farmers and
gold miners that lived there. After its incorporation, hunting obviously continued until the
farmers \'lere bought out,
mo~t1 yin
1983:-1.985. However, srlort1 y after the amplification of HIe
Park, a rapidl y groy/i ng body of g~ld miners provided a ready market for any meat that anyone
was willi ng to go to the effort. to shoot, and among the many hundreds of mi ners, there were
surel ysome \-lith the technical ability to become part-ti me hunters as well. V'le suspect that by
the very earl y 1980's, the souther~ portion of Corcovado w'as a1 ready as free of game ani mals as
it is at present. Once the game 'vIas obliterated, the motivation for hunti ng 'vias reduced to near
zero. I suspect that farmers no\\,' enteri ng the Park to hunt all move into the more central and
even northern portions of the Park and do not bother with the arees occupied by the gold mi ners.
If they are not at present h4nti ng, do the mi ners play any role in the fail ure of game ani mal~;
to re-establish in the southern portion of the Park? When a game ani mal wanders i flto that
area, it i~ met by hUman
pre~ence (odor~, ~ound~,
passi ng people) ; ~uch game eni mab ",,"ill be
indi . . . iduals that have already been shot at or ar9und, and . . li11 be very shy of people. They ·. .liTi
not stay. If one does staY,·or even passes through slow1 y, it is very 1; kel y that someone 'vIill
procure a fire-arm and put it in the pot, despite t~e fact that in general the miners do not hunt.
Indeed, in June, Park Rangers caught a gold miner with a freshly killed cur resow' near
[speranza. As they told us on numerous .occasions (and most vocally during the public meeting
in Puerto Ji menez) " what is the tlarr:n if an occaSional tepezcui ntle or peccat"lJ fi nds it way into
dinner; vie are not barbarians - ."we eatwhat\N'e shoot and do not shoot for market. The miners
appeared to be Quite unaware of the argument that "if every mi ner shot just one peccary, then
there are quite enough mi ners in the Park to extermi nate the peccaries". Even more i ndi rectl y,
the miners' traffic provides \oIell established ~nd 'w'ell known trail systems that allo\ol maximally
rapid movement of hunters to more interior and less accessi ble areas, even if the hunter is neVI
to the area.
When Janzen and Stiles fi rst started studyi ng ani mals in the area of
3i rena- Llorona- Marenco-Cedral- Los CMles in central C.orcovado, HIe game ani mals had been
subjected to many years of hunting and were extremely shy and occurred in low numbers. In the
follo'w'ing ten years, after all the farmers were relocated out of the area, they gradualllJ became
both abundant and much less shy of humans. Today, peccaries, brocket deer and tapirs in the
5i rena area are 1i kel y to pass 'w'ithi n 5-10 meters of a human observer 'w'ithout taki og flight;
this is noUhe reaction of a population of game ani mals from ylhich individuals are bei ng
It i3 a clear and
prediction that \llhen the human pre::.ence (both mi ner::.
and hunters from outside the Park) is removed from Corcovado, the same changes 'vlill occur
~'ith the game animals as occurred in the past ten years in.central Corcovado (though it 'w'i11 tak~
longer because the density of ani mals is even lo'Wer in the southern portions of the Par k)a J?(Lt-ea
'Where the garne populations are little subsidized by the large stands of highly edible secondary
successional vegetation and abandoned orchards that characterized the central portions of the
Park \\,'hen it 'Was established).
in sum, the general absence of game ani mals in southern Corcovado National Park does not
appear to be due to contemporary dail y hunti ng by the gold mi ners, but rather is
11 kel y due .
to earlier heavy hunting by settlers (and earlier gold miners). The contemporary density is
rna; ntai ned very lo'w' b.y hunters enteri ng from outside of the Park and equall y by the humao
presence of the gold mi ners. The impact of the lack of game ani mals is not onl y thei r di rect
but the steady ongoi ng alteration of forest structure through the absence of game ani mal$
as seed predato rs and seed di s pe rse rs. Thi s alte rati 0 0 'Will pe rsi st fo r ma ny decades., long afte r
the di rect human i oT1 uence has been removed. We do not discuss the interaction of hunters and
gold mi ners 'With game ani mals around scarce 'Water holes duri·ng the last months of the dry
~eesonJ beceu~e
the detai1~ of ~uch on interoction depend~ on 6 dependency on dry ~e6~on 'Wete'r in
Corcovado, a dependency that has never been studied. However, it is easy to guess that a riverbed
under 1- 2 m of silt offers a very different pattern and amount of dry season 'Water than does its
pristine rocky ancestor.
Aquatic systems.
Corcovado gold is fn stream-bed placer deposits, rather than.ln·ore. Gold mining in the
Park is dependent on, and thoroughl y integrated 'With, gravity-feed stream and river flow off the
slopes of 'What appears to have been an old and severel y.eroded mountai n (volcanic?) 'Whose
current height is about 700 m and is located in the south centra] portion of the Park (figure n.
After this very steep flo'W comes more horizontal flo'W into the central 'w'estern parts of the Park
(Corcovado basin and lo'Wlands of Ryo Claro and RiO f1adrigal) and along the southern and
southeastern boundaries to the agricultura1ized flatlands bet. .."een the Park and the Golfo Dulce.
He water comes from 2500 to 4000 rnrn of annual rai nfall,
of ·. ./hich falls bet'v/een April
and .Ja nua r y. Hli s sea so na 1 rai nfa 11 cyc1e as 'Well as dail y .0 r \'/ee l:llJ st ro ng f1 uct uatl 0 ns i n
r;jj nfal1, has a strong effect on f!O'w' and 'vlhere gold mi ni ng occurs, a:n/ell as on the impact of
that ml ni ng on aquatic ecosystems. The mi ners folloyl Hie 'Wat.er ::.easo.nall y, and seal ment load::.
move and consolidate in response to seasonal pulses in rain'Water_ V{3ter tMt is sediment-.loaded
or diverted duri ng the dnJ seai.(,n has a potentiall y larger impact on much of the aquatic life than
does "later man; pulated in the rai ny season.
Vi rtuell y all gold mi ni ng in Corcovado involves placi ng ioose gold- beari ngsoil, gravel, sand
and decompos; n9 rock in 8 \vater current, and collect; ng the dense gold fragm~nts from some k; nd
of riffle box or other sed; ment catchment device. The si mple byproduct is a heavy pulse of
fi ne- to coarse-grai ned sedi ment into the 'y,/ater flo . .·,!. Most of this section of the report is
devoted to the detailed w'ay in which this sediment and its input patterns interact w'ith the
rai nforest aquatic envi ronment. Needless to say., there is vi rtuall y no. formal ecologics1
literature on this subject, and therefore \vhat fo11o\\I$ is enti rel y based on \\Ihat 'vie sa\\,' and
logical extrapolation from other ki nds of perturbations of aquatic habitats that have been studied
in the tropics and else\vhere. While there may be known technologies for gold extraction that
. might not have these or some other major impact on the environment, they are simply
irrelevant to the situation at hand because the type of mi ners that have and would invade the
Park do not and could not use them. Our goal is to understand what damage these ki nds of gold
mi ners are do; ng to the Park and how to eli mi nate that damage (as well as other envi ronmental
insults in the future) .: 'We are not concerned 'With 'Whether a big-money dry-dirt gold mining
company could mine Corcovado National Park, as we assume that to be a given negative.
It is a stri ki ng historical comment that as recentl y 8S 1981, an undated report by the
President of the College of Biologi~ts of Co~h~ Ric8, lic. Sergio S818~, ~t8te~ thet the equetic
. envin)nmenta1 damage done by the gold miners in Corcovado is trivial and will remain that 'vlay'
as long as mi ners ere restricted to usi ng onl y gravity feed pi pes for 'Water movement and remei n
in lo'w' numbers. No bjologist vie'yfi ng the current aquatic chaos in the southern thi rd of
Corcovado could make such a statement. Two modern miners and helpers, 'Working continually
. fo r a yea r 0 r 1eS$ 8t 'v/8S hi ng cree kbe 1'1 k and C8 use'W8 y sedi me nts 'w'it h gravlt y feed hoses, 'Wi 11
destroy the aquatic life in any small to medium-sized stream (riachue1a) ·for· 2-10 kilometers
do'Wnstream. Si nee each Corcovado river is at best fed by several dozen such streams, it takes no
imeginiltion to determine thet the entire 8QU8tic ~y~tem i~ ~everely threatened by e~ few a~ 100
modern mi ners \vorki ng for 01'11 y a year. In fact, it has been vi rtuall y'destroyed by a much
large.r number of mi ners 'World ng i ntensel y for at least 4 years.
Ki nds of gold mi ni ng in Corcovado .
. 1. Panning. The long time ("old time") resident gold miners in and flear Corcovado, present
long before the area became a national park, 'W~rked almost enti rel y by .pa~ning stream and
small river sedi ments ("panni ng" is \-las hi ng small
of gold-ll eari ng sedi ment ina
circular basin, \oIittl the dense gold accumulating in the bottom). They occasionally diverted
parb of the stream. Their direct impact on aquatic systems 'w'ere negligjble o\y'ing to the very
small amount of sedi ment introduced into the stream or sti rred up i nta j~le vafer flo'w' blJ eac~1
miner, because they occured in just a fe'.,; location;;; on the margins of the ParK, becalJse thel)
tended to ...."ork just in rocky riverbeds (and thei r activity therefore put less silt into the
stream) , and because thei r ahsol ute number$ were wellle$~ then 50 (end still are) over the
entire area of the present-day Park. Even \,Ihere they altered stream channels, they usualllJ
'w'orked in those unconsolidated portions of the stream bed that were occasionall y reformed blJ ~
natural heavy stream flo'h" followi ng spells of very rai ny 'w'eather. On a fe'll occasions., such
miners also moved \"later through tree-trunk pipes or aquaducts to reach \v'ater-poor deposits.
Such mi ners were some"lhat reasonabl y vie\v'ed as Quai nt semi - natural portions of the
habitat (\'/itness the somevhat poetiC account of Ulei r activities on pages 241- 242 in Ule 1931
book on the National Parks of Costa Rica (M. A. Boza and R. Mendoza . INCAFO, t1adrid). This
view was reinforced blJ the fact that their forced eviction from the Park at that time (with or
'w'ithout compensation) would have been substantially more traumatic than was the purchase of
the farms in the
These trul y old ti me and highl y independent mi ners probabl y did more
direct damage to the Park by hunting for meat for the table than they did in actual gold mining.
HO\'ieVer, it is our opi nion that thei r real damage \,Ias in offer; ng an informal moral
legiti mization to the fi rst members of the new wave of gold mi ners that moved into the Par k
(both the origtl1al Park and the part ne\y'l y added duri ng the amplification). "If the Park can
tolterate a little gold mi ni ng, if a little gold mi ni ng is OK, then, 'Well (pues), just a little more
cannot be all that bad ..... " And now, they are a major thorn in the ~ide in that they are morel'
nuc 1ei fo r the ne'w'co me r· mi ne r$, and so me do not hesitate to draw these newco me rs to
themselves for support as well. On the other hand, we encountered one miner '.,."ho vie'w'ed the
newcQmers as a competitive nuisance that gave gold mi ni ng a bad name.
While such "old-time" gold miners still occur in the Park, their primary importance at
present is not in'the darr;age they do so much as in generating a strong feeling among many social
levels of Costa Ricans that they are people that \\Iould be badl y hurt by an eviction and would have
no where else to go or to work. If some reasonable employment circumstance could be located
for these "characters" a giant ~tep would be taken in eliminating ~ocial resistance to the
eviction (or so conversations in Puerto Jimenez and in the central office of the National Park
Service have led us to believe): I n the current population of gold mi ners, the old ti me mi ners
grade i mperceptabl y into the class of middle-aged yet more modern gold mi ners "lIho mai ntai n
that thelJ have no.other potential occupation (yet somehow managed to survive to middle-age
before becomi ng a gold mi rler) ..
On Hie other rland, Hlere is a strong temptation to atte~ipt to return to the "good ole days" and
think up a plan"w'here just "old time miners" 'vlould be allowed to remain in the Park. We vie'W
this 8S simply impossible for the follo·wing reasons:
The evicted modern gold miners 'v/ould not vie'vl this 8S fai r, and each would S81J Hif he C8n
mine in Hie Park, 'w'hlJ can't I"?
b. The "old ti me mi ners" are reall y no longer disti nct as' a species. The cause··. . . ays that they
used to so easil y mi ne have by and large been thoroughly mi ned (they have to turn to more
destructive methods of mining to continue to obtain
enough gold. to live). Furthermore, the
possi bility of thei r former isolationist life,i n the pristi ne w'ilderness ("l;vi ng off the land") i~
not compatible with the Park (the "outback" of the Park, \o/here the~e people once lived,
now' a
combi nation of We front of the Park and farmland (or farmland to be). Cerro de Oro is no longer
in the 'w'ilderness, but rather on the \olell-mined boundary behv'een a rainforest park and
cornfields; an old-ti me gold mi ner hunti ng .i ust one peccary for di nner is li kel y t(l be ~;h(loti ng
one of the last 'w'hite-li pped peccaries in the Costa Rica.
2. Stream bed and bank mi ners withoutQlJm~. Better than 80% of the mi ni ng in
Corcovado National Park is done by movi ng unconsolidated to semi -consolidated causevnl'J
sedi ments into major stream t1o'W's to 'w'ash it, .or by usi ng gravity feed 2- 3 inch (5- 8 em)
diameter 11exi ble pi pes to get water into sedi ment deposits up to ~everal hundred
from natural stream flows. Asmall creek is dammed and a pi pe intake is placed in the bottom of
the resultant pond; the water t10w$ by gravity feed to the mined area. Vv'hen the cause'vay is
mined near 'vater, the deposit is dumped jnto a sluicebox and \\Iashed. Such deposits are rich in
lateritic old soils as 'w'ell as sands and gravels. Additionally, many cubic meters of overburden
ore ~hoveled or W'a~hed dovn hill into natural flows to expo~e gold- rich ~tr6te, or in exploratory
d~ggi ng3.
All such mi ni ng results ina conti nuous and heavy flow of sedi ment into the cause'w'8y. The
water is red to yellow 'w'ith suspended lateritic sedi ments and the bottom is covered I. . . ith fi ne
sa nd and gravel de posi ts. F0 11 o\\/i ng a rai 1'1, Hie sedi me nt load is exce pti 0 nall y heav y, o'w'i ng to
heavy surface runoff from mi ne till that is full y exp.0sed to rai n drops and surface erosion on the
stream banks. As one moves down the stream from its head'w'aters, the recent sedi ments become
. deeper and the rocky' original stream bed is.even more thoroughly buried. HOw'ever, as the
stream enlarges to a small river (2- 5 mi n 'w'idth'i 1'1 normal rai ny season floW') , there is less
. ne\d sedi ment input per meter of bank and the sedi ment deposits in the cause'vay are less thick.
Also, the lesseni ng rate of floW' 8S the river enlarges clearl y results in ever more sedi ment
sett1i ng out of the movi ng water col umn, to be picked up and moved agai n onl y after a very rai ny
.. spell. When such waters fi na11 y hit the clear and re1ativel!J cal m Idaters of the Golfo Dulce,
they generate a r.ed clay delta and plume that stretches up to several kilometers into the sea
before settling out (e.g., the moutr, of the Rio Tigre just
of Puerto Jimenez).
There are a number of detailed considerations of the above general descri ption that are
pertinent to the impact of this type of mining on aquatic life.
mi ners in the Park and in the Puerto Ji menez meeti rllJ observed that 'what they
are do; n9 is "natural", 3i nce on the steep slopes (45 to 80 degrees above horizontal) ; iI ttle
, ,
gold- rich stream head\olaters, landslides are conspicuous arid do occur. An earthquake occurred
in 1982 \,thich produced a pulse of such landslides W'ithi n the memories of manlJ gold- mi ners in
the area; several large mi nes at La Torre had been tunneled into slope. faces that had been exposed
by these earthquake-generated landslides. HO\olever, mi ni ng and landslides differ in t'w'O very ~
important respects. first, as a rough estimate from an overflight 'y/e made on 28 June) at least
80% of the landslides that \ole observed (fresh di rt on the surface, less than 1- 2 years of
lnvasive vegetative reqro\\,'th) in the upper head'w'aters of the RfO Clar~., Rlo RincOn, Rio Termo,
RiO Si rena,·etc. had readil y visi ble mi ni ng activity at thei r bases .'"" that is to $ay, they "lere
largely if riot entirely the result of undercutting steep banks either in pursuit of gold-bearing
old sedi ments or to cause them to fall a\olay and expose other depo~its: The impact oflandslide
originating sediments on aqlJatic life is.ob:\liously a function of ho\\.' often it occurs} and gold
mi ni ng gre;Jtl y increases the rate of landslides on steep slopes.
vi rtuall y all of the
mi ni ng operations put a charge of sedi ment into the W'ater flo"l on 8 dai1 y basis. This mea ns that
i nsteadof the aquatic life havi ng to endure an occasional pulse of sedi ment- rich water duri ng a
time of heavy rains \-/hen streams are at their fullest and 'w'hen most natural landslides occur,
the aquatic life has to endure a \llater column that is continuously.r:ich in sediments and a bottom
substrate conti nuall y receivi ng ne'w' layers of sedi ment. This conti nuity of insult is not even
broken hy the dry ~ea~onJ and in fact i~ impo~ed on eQuatic ~y~tem~even at the time W'hen \vater
is scarcest.
In short, mining a cause\.iay and its banks is not analogous to a natural landslide because of
both the larger and more conti nuous sedi ment input from mi ni ng.
2. In ahighly seasonal habitat such as Corcovado, the liquid extent of the stream net'vlork
over the landscape shri nks substantiall y dur; ng the dry season and then expa.nds dur; ng the
rainy season (and ex'pands even ,more in very rainy \oIeather). The practical
signific~nce ofthi~;
cyclic change is that the majority of the gold ·mi ners retreat from
Park· or at least from the
small streambeds duri ng the dry season, and mi ne pri maril yin the beds o(the larger rivers
where there still is water and at a ti me of year \oIhen the large river beds are not threatened
'witt. dangerous floods during a storm.
Unfortunately, the fish, shrimp, crabs and other aquatic
life of Corcovado's sm~l1er rivers and streams are obvious1 y requi red to migrate up and dOlHn
the waterfloW' 'v/ifh the- seasons in order to remai n in suitable habitat. This need results
IT\agnifies the damage done by mi ni ng and actuall y causes the damage to extend .!!Rstream from
Hie last mi ne at tile tlead of a st rea m. If} as ; s t he case 'w'i. t h Hie 0 ue brada Pi ed ras 51 ancas, ttle
uppermost 1000 meters of rai nlJ season fio\ol1 ng streambed has no iJold mi ners, this refugi urn is
in severe danger of exti nction as the dry season comes on. As the river shri nks, Ule aquatic
animals 'YIill b.t:. forced d'jl/lnhill into the mined area, an area of stream 'v/ittl no leaf packs, no
crevices in rocks} no deep pools, and no clear 'water. Furthermore, the deeper pooh in the
1o'w'e r po rti 0 ns of the ri ve r (fed by unde rs urface fl O'Yl)
be fill ed 'Wi t h sedi me nts duri ng
. . ,'8stli ng of $Oils and not recharged duri ng the course of the dnJ season. In addition., thei r
te mpe r8t urea nd ox lJge n reg; mes as stag na nt eva po rati ng pooh i n t he hot sun
/m be ve t- y
different from those of the flo'w'i ng pools that they replace;
3. The sediments themselves damage a tropical stream course in a \y'a~ not antjcipated t';
those familiar ',lith extra-tropical streams. The streams in Corcovado's rai nforest are very
poor in.aquatic planh. Nearly all of the food chain is based on vegetative and animal matter that
falls into the stream. As the sediment load on 8 stream builds up} it plugs the crac:l:s bet'w'een the
rocks used as hiding places by the detritus feeders and their predators . it coats ttle rocksurfaces
\\Iith under. .later mud \"hich fn turn makes the substrate unsuitable as perch sites for filter- .
feeding insects, it buries the stream bed leaf pack so as to make it unavailable to aquatic
decomposers at the bottom of the food chai n} it smooths out the stream bed contour so that
i neomi ng plant materia'l floats further dO'w'nstream before lodgi ng on the bottom} it obstructs
vision for those ani mals that hunt by- sight., and it pl ugs the gills and other breathi ng org~n~; of
aquatic ani mals. V-Ie are not here speaki ng of a stream meanden ng through a marshy meadow'
( \I,' he re
a ce rtai n amo unt of sedi me nt fe rtil i ze r 1eads tel i nc reased pri ma r y prod uc:ti 0 n) nJ) r ev~~!
a rocky mountai n brook bubbli ng through moss and algae covered rocks. Corcovado's high
velocity mountai n streams under fore~t canopie3 are nearl y free of green plants} apparent1 y due
to the relativel y 10'vl nutrient content of the 'vIater the heavy shade to 'which most are subject "
and the continuous grazing by aquatic insects. The sediment-enriched 'w'aters do damage even tht'
sparse aquatic plants on the rocks by coveri ng them 'w'ith a layer of sedi ment and obstr ucti ng
light passage to them.
4. Rich sedi ment deposits in Corcovado's streams 'w'ill disappear at different rates in
different s.treams once the mining is stoppM In the highest and steepest parts} perhaps only a
fe'oll good 'ollet years 'Will be needed to return the streams to their original condition as a
substrat.e. In the intermediate flo'w' and ~lope areas, it is clear that 'w'e are tal ki ng in terms of .
lOs to WOs of years, depending on the luck of ho\v' many really strong storms occur. In the
lO'w'er and more horizontal (flood plai n) parts of the' rivers} the recovery 'will be extremel y
slow} likel y of the order of thousands of ye.srs_
a 2-10 m deep layer of sand and laterite
sediment::; is laid dO"lIn on ttle other . . /ise rocky riverbed, it 'Will take exceptionally rainy
periods tocreete the stream floY! needed to reall y $cour out such river beds. With conti nued
mi ni ng} it is clear ttlat 10'111 flat rivers li ke the RfO Si ren~ and the
RlO Corcovado 'Will suffer tMs
5. 8iological recovery of the streams currently being mined for gQld Vlill depend very much
on 'which and ilo'W man:J brariCtles (tributaries) of the particular stream 'yiere mined Each of
ttrt small rivers flo'wi ng from inside of the Park to either the Golfo Dulce or the P&cific: is very
, ,
much an aquatic island. All are separated at thei r mouths bg large expanses of higher and
we11-drai ned soil s 0 r eve n roc ky pro me nto ri es. 0\\1; ng to the stee pness of the si des of the
canyons, stream capture appears vi rtualllJ non-existant This means that biological recovery
'w'm be dependent on
a. overland transport of those organ.isms that can do so,
b. ho'vl thoroughly each of the aquatic habitat types (feeder sfreams, deep dry season pools,
shallo'W flat rapids, etc.) is eli m; nated from a riven river system, and
c. hO'vllong a population of this OT that aquatic organism can persist ina conti nousl y
sedi ment laden stream.
It H clear that some of the rivers do have branches that are still unaffected. The Rio Rincon
has the Rio Pavon as a major tr; butary, and the Rlo Pavon is still deep, crystal clear, rich in
fish and arthropods (i"t tlo'w's, a1 most at sea level, ; nto the muddy dra; n8ge ditch kno'w'n 8S the
Rlo Rincon at the eastern-most point of the eastern Park boundary). The uppermost 500-1000
m of Quebrada Piedras B1ancas duri ng the rai ny season is unaffected. The upper 1- 2 km of the
RiO Agujas is subject at present almost entirely to hard-rock mining (see belo'vi) , 'ylith the
consequence of less severe sed; mentation until it reaches intermediate size.
There are obviously some spec-ies of aquatic organisms that can survive substantial and
conti nuou::: do:::e::: of sedi ment- rich 'w'ater~. In the ~tream ~ide pool~ of the 10'w'er' RiO Aguja~ and
RiO Tigre, 'Whose beds had been grossly relocated and churned by the heavy machinery of mini~g
companies 'w'orking outside of the Park, 'We encountered small numbers of poeciliid fishes
mi nno'w's, surface or even ai r breathers capable ofliv; ng in extremel y stagnant 'Water) and in
the same pools thick stands of algae gro'vli ng up through the bottom lateritic sedi ments.
Public appreciation, in the tropics, of the preservation of aquatic biota lags far behi nd
that for terrestrial frees and game ·~nfma1s. There have been discussants both in Hie field and in
San Jose that have spoken of stream and river regeneration follo'Wi ng gold mi ni ng as a "yes- no"
process, 'w'ith the "ye:::"
by vi rtuall y any ki nd of 1ivi n9
present in the
stream. Ho'Wever, it is clear th'at a major perturbation has al ready occured i rr 811 of the
'Watercourses in the southern portions of Corcollado National Park, and the 3i mple presence of
livi ng organisms in the rivers does not constitute the aquatic equivalent of 'W~ldland
reforestati'on. When the mi oi ng is stopped, it is obvious that some sort Of aquatic community
'viill reappear. T'Wo depressi ng pr~diction3 are, ho'Wever, 100% certai n.
a. The aquatic communities 'Will be more different fr~m river to river 10 years froi~: noW'
than thelJ 'Were before the mi ni n9
largellJ o'Wi fig to the luck of Hie Ijnl''II' 8::; to
got hit in \o,het 'Way and 'With 'Who, i nten~ity.
b. All of the communities 'vim be different from 'What they 'were before HIe m; nj n9 began.
Even if no local species extinction has occurred (a highly doubtful if), demographies have been
, ,
so gr03s1y altered along 'With the alterations of the physical'substrate that 'We are still talking of
ten3 to hundreds of years before previous population structures 'Will return. There are not even
any undamaged rivers \h,'ithi n the southern portion of the Park to serve as controls in this gi;3nt,
experi ment. While those in the mountai nous central and northern portions of the- Park may
se rve as a base of co mpa ri so n t hei r st rea ms are based 0 n a di ffe re nt rai nfa 11 patte r n.. di ffe re nt
soil types (w'hatever geological processes have resulted in the lo~1 or negliqi ble amounts of gol,j
in these areas are undoubtedl y associated with other geomorphological differences from the
southern portions of the Park) , different slopes " and different vegetation (there is even a small
and unique patch of oak- rich cloud forest perche'd on the very top of the mountai n massif at the
- poi nt of divergence of the auriferous streamsi n the.southern part of the Park:).
7. As recently as 1984, an envi ronmental impact statement prepared for
mi ni ng concession
1653 (Rancho Quemada, outside of the Park in the direction of Rincon) commented that the
streams had'an "extremely poor aquatic fauna, and were prone to drying up in the dry
seaso n...On1y small cra bs and aq uati c i nsects'We re' 0 bse rved .. .i n ge ne ra1, a11 the. st rea ms that
form the upper drai nage basi n of the Rio Ri yito have an extremel y poor fish fauna" (p.SS) .; the
implication in the report 'Was Ulen that such a fauna
after the disturbance it 'Would 310'w'1 y return.
not something to bother about and that
it is precisel y these streams 'With
faunM that requi re protection wit hi n the Park. Furthermore , a~
we are
co nfi de nt that s uc h ha bUats 'Will co ntai n pec ul iar speci es lo'W de nsit y speci es and 1oca1 speci es
that 'Will some day be of great perti nence to the question of species evol ution.
8. As the sedi ment load accumulates in the lO'w'er (more level) stretches of the river, rivers
such as those in Corcovado si mpl y disappear more exte nsi vel y and more thoroughl y duri ng the
dry season. The R~ Cedral shows this very clearl y. Before the Park 'Was established this river
flo\h/ed through sections of forest cleared for farmland and sections of intact forest. Where there
is farmland, the rocky riverbed is covered 'With a 30- 200 cm thick layer of sandy erosional
sedi ments. As. the dry season comes on and the stream flow lessens, the river becomes
eventua11 y small enough that it flows enti rely belo\d the surface, leavi ng all the dryi ng pools
'w'ith dead fish and arthropods. A fe'W hundred metersdo'w'n strearrl, 'Where it returns to forest,
the river reappears, flowing over the original roc.ky bed a~~ strung 'With variously deep pools
along its course. The river banks are 50- 200 cm hign and tree-covered. HCt\v manlJ IJeers of
severe flooding.wm be required to clean out such a sedimerit~fil1ed portion of river bed is
unclear, but if Hie enti re river is filled 'w'Uh sedi ments -: as is rlappeni ng at present 'With the RiO
Claro, Rlo Tigre, RiO ~~incon, RfO AgUj~S, etc. - it will be a very, very slo'Yi process.
Removing the sediments from such a river i31ike trying to use cold water to 'w'ash grease dOvln a
pi pe.
In the case of the Rlo Sirena, 'w'hich flo'w's directly into the Laguna Corcovado ('w'hich can
safely be. labeled as the last pristine large s\y'amp in Centra'l America), the silt load \y'ill be
d; rect] y ; n the lake basi n "lith the highl y predictable consequence of fill; ng the open
8. While the absol ute number of trees removed by stream bank mi ni og is small. the effecti;s
locall y very heavy 'w'ith respect to the aquatic ecosystem. The stream bed and water is exposed to
more hours of direct insolation, and to more di rect impact from rai nfall. This in turn results in
more rapid dryi ng of stream- bank i nte.rfaces in dry \-leather and more severe erosion dud ng
rai ny spells. Furthermore, 'y'ater temperatures are raised duri ng sunny 'Weather., small pools
of non-flo'Wing 'Water heat uP. and herbaceous ('Weedy) vegetation has mot:e opportunity to gro . . .1
on the ~tream banb. The detailed outcome ofthe~e chenges is unkno\y'able 'Without a direct
experi ment, but it clearl y alters the watercourse and its physical- biological" properties.
Whether this is a "good" or "bad" change is irrelevant; the goal of the Park is the preservation of
natural streams (among other things) and a sunny and sHt-laden stream tlo'Wing along an opened
corridor of rainforest is certainly not the same, biologically or hydraulically, as is 8 silt-free
stream tlowi ng under an intact forest canopy.
3. Mi ners \y'lth 98so11 ne-driven RumQs
(~.I~R8rentl y Honde
is the bestl." Ami ner 'With a pump,is
freed from the obvious topographic limitations of gravity-feed \y'ater movement, and can move'
and 'Wash an enormous vol ume of sedi ments per day. Not onl y is he then able to dissect and 'Wash
a'W8Y ent; re hillsides, but the sed; ment load put; nto the river may be up to tens of cubic meters
per day. Below a pump-facilitated mine in a·causeway bank, it is commonplace to.find the
origi nel rocky creek bed buried 1- 3 m deep 1n lateritic and light sand sedi ments (e.g., upper
Quebrada Piedras Bl'ancas).· Ent; re tlills 5Q-70.m high tl8ve been cut in half and 'y,:'ashed into Hie
headwaters of the Rio Claro through pump-facilitated mi ni ng in the past three years ..
Furthermore, a miner 'With e pump can.afford to ':lash lo'Wer-grade deposit~ (larger volume per
.. '
hour) and thus may stay more in one place, gri ndi ng very substantiall y into a hill that would be
largel y ignored by more old-fashioned technology.
While both gold mining and gold mining with a ~ump are unambiguously illegal in Corcovado,
somehow the mystique has developed that mi ni ng with 8 pump is more illegal. pumps·can be, and
epparentl yin several cases tlave been, cQnf~scated by Park Rangers. Thei ruse in the Park at the
pre~ent is a1 most negligi Dle (except for the RiO Claro) , .but ttley are commonplace on' Hie
borders. ThelJ are clandesti nellJ used in the Park (especialllJ in border areas) , 8f1lj Hlei r
popularity is increasing; if the mining is al1o'Wed to continue in the Park, it is clear that a
steady increase in pump population density is the next natural step in gold miner community
e"v'olutlon. A pump 'w'iHlal1 of its associated pipes sells for abo,ut $1000 (45,000 colones),
which i n.fact is a very reasonable investment consideri ng the great increase in the amount of
mi ni ng that can occur with one. However, it i~ generall y difficult for an individual mi ner to
have that much ca3h in his pocket at one ti me. This sets. up
the system for
evermore complex 8(;)d
deepl y involved outside interests who are willi ng to i.nvest such a sum for an al most guaranteed:
high return on the investment. Outsiders who have so invested in the mi ners are li kel y to be as
vocal (or more su) as are the mi ners themselves in r:esisti ng the mi ner's eviction from the
Park. In addition, such outsiders will be among the middle to upper economic classes in Costa
Rican society and therefore annoyi ng1 y more comp~tent at i nfl uenci ng the politics of the decision
to evict the mi ners than 'w'il1 be the mi ners. While we .did not encounter this ki nd of commercial
·complexity (unless it was be hi nd some of the i nte~lsity· of noise at the Puerto Ji menez meeti ng) .
·it is very easy to i magi he it evolvi ng if the situation conti nues as it is. V'le were surprised not to
encounter the argument, "well, the mi ners have a1 ready. destroyed the aquatic systems, so why
not 1et"them continue their work"; outside investors are one obvious source for such a blind and
self-servi ng argument.
Pumps have another weakness in addition to being·easi1y confiscated. They are noisy and
therefore easily located by a Park Ranger who is patrolling along ridge-top trails rather than
str~ggli ng
up the rocky (and deafeni ngl y roari ng river-filled) riverbed. In sum, thei r threat
to be pri meril yin the future,
the gold mi ni ng per3ist, rather then in the
i mmedi ate .p rese nt.
4. Hard rock mi ners. The uppermost reaches of many of the creeks and rivers have
numerous tunnels cut straight into the banks between 1 and 10m above the rocky and narro'w'
causeW'ay. The tunnels may penetrate as deepl y as 10- 50 m, and are usuall y about 1.5 m W'ide
and 1.5- 2 m high at the mouth. The more successful
ones, at least as defi ned by
thei r depths, tend to be folloW'i ng very old and long ago- buried rocky river beds covered by
thoroughl y consolidated and co·ng10merated boulder- rich large-gravel all uvi urn. Many mi ners
appear to be
followi ng or transect; ng ~uch ancient ~tream- bed deposits without understandi ng
'v/hat they· represent. It a ppears that many of the reall y spectacular gold fi nds (large nuggets,
concentrations ofsmall nuggets) come from these fossil "river beds. either W'hen mi ned or W'hen
disseGted. and exposed by erosion from contemporary streams. 5i nee the Osa Peni nsula is an area
of recent geological uplift, these fossil riverbeds were at one time at a loW'er elevation and
analogous to the contemporary intermediate-sized creeks and rivers. Upon bei ng uplifted, the
fossil river beds are no\,/ bei ng eroded and dissected by contemporarlJ rai nfall.
The volume of rocl-: from hard rock mines is usually small, the sediment coarse, and the daily
input into rivers 101,·,1 (l to several wheelbarrow loads per day). While such mining does
.generate sedimentation. more damage is done to the river in removing overburden in ~:earch of
mi neab1e layers than by the material from the tunnel mi oe itself. Such rocKIJ mi oe till goes
pri marily into the uppermost streams ina river system, areas with very high velocity stream
tlO\\1 end near1 y pure rock C8USe\va IJs. As 8 conseqlJence, it tends not to accumulate in such
spectacular amounts in the river bed as does the clay and sandy sedi ment some\y'hat lOvler dO"h'rl,
in the stream. It appears that the major damage done to date di rectl y by the tunnel mi ne is the~
scouri ng of the rock surfaces by the increased grit load . and the sedi mentation of deep pools and
crevices beloYl the general vlater rapid fiovl. Such pools and crevices are very; mportant
biological refugia during the dry season in the uppermost streambeds; the more filled "/ith
sedi ment, the more shallow they are and the more li kel y to dry out before the end of the dry.
5. Mi ni ng companies. Fortunatel y, the mi ni ng companies have all stopped at the Park
boundaries (except in the case of the Rio Rincon where the river itself is the boundary and the
company has simply mined all the river bed or diverted the river channel further into the Park
so that they could then say that they were mi ni ng outside of the Park (the center of the river is
the boundary». They also do not appear to be a di rect immediate threat to the Parl~ si nce in
theory they can be easi1 y controlled through thei r concessi{)n licenses by the Mi nisterio de
EnergG y Mi nas (i n addition, many have si mp1 y ceased operation after havi ng thorough1 y ..
destroyed the river bed). On the other hand, there 13.a1983 report by two geologists (B. M.
Moro end J. F. C. Munoz) end 0 1984 report by two biologi~t~ (H. Soto end B. Gutierrez) that.
makes it very clear that the companies are and have committed a large array of infractions of the
C{)ncession regulations 'w'ithout any real. threat of government
action at the ti me (we do not kno'w'
what government actions were taken as a consequence of the Mora and Munoz or Soto and
Gutierrez reports). The poi nt is th~t many ki nds of mi ni ng damage have to be avoided in the
first place; fines or "reclamation" is generally just whitewash to quiet some vocal critic. We
elso sa~l sufficiently severe alterations of riverbeds by companies to make it clear that either
siltation end damage to the causey/ay is not prohibited, or their activities are in fact unregulat~d.
We 'Wl t ne~~ed .t he oUe mpted fi r~t ~te p~ ot p1eci ng 0 tlooti n9 mi ni ng dredge i n t he RiO Ri yi to .
(outside of the Park); when a large dredge is allowed to work the cause'way of a small river,
there are no other possi b1e consequences than total destruction of the cause'way and major
siltation dovnstream.
The companies are of course a major i ndi rect component of the problem in that thei r
co ncessi 0 fl3 and previ 0 us mi ni ng acti viti es ma ke.i t vi rt ua 11 y i mpossi b1e to rea so na b1Y3 uggest
a future sollJtion for more Ulan a few of the gold mi n~rs in the Park would be to shift thei r
location to the larger tlatland riverbeds outside of the Park. The$e riverbeds have a1 ready been
. '.
heavUIJ mi fled, and the deposits that rema; n are buried under many meters of overburden. This
point 'will be discussed later in this report 'With respect to the 1egi~lation currently under
consideration bl,l HIe legislative Assembl y to create & band of terrai n around the Park in 'w'rlich
the individual mi ners have priority.
Vve should make it abundantl y cle{]r, hO\'iever . that the company-level mi ni rrg of the
originating in the Park (RlO Rincon, Rio Tigre, Rio Agujas, the only ones 'y,le examined) has
totally destroyed them from the Park boundary to the ocean. Not only have the river beds been
stri p- mi ned in the 'w'orst and sloppiest sense, but the beds are nov rich in flood - and
erosion- prone low banks .. total1 y unconsolidated sedi ments in piles and eskers many meters
deep,. and undercut high lateritic banks. Pools that may serve as dry season and tloCtd\o/ater
refugi a fo r aq uati c ani mal s have bee n eli mi nated (of co urse the re are de pressed areas fill ed \\:;t h
'Water, and even some of the characteristic river- bar plant, species are begi nni ng to colonize,
, but these are' i n no sense the equivalents of 'What was once there). We should also make it clear,
ho'Weve r, that these 'y,late rco urses \o/e re amply helped to exti ncti 0 n by the ol/e rall c1ta ri ng of all
the lowland relevant forest for high-grade rice fields and pastures dur; ng the past 20
the immediate future they 'Will be subject to conti nuou~ assault from agricultural chemic'91s.
We are here concerned 'With the Question of ho\v' do 'y/e keep Corcovado intact, rather than is it
possible or even desirable to use the 10\0/1ands near the Park for anything other than high yield
agriculture and pastureland. When Janzen first \v'alked up to Hie
RG Rincon 20 years ago at a
point half,o/ay bet'v/een 'What 'Was to become Corcovado National Park and the Golfo Dulce, the site
Wil::' 0
clear ~hode-doppled roi nfore~t river rich in lorge fi~h, 'cratr~ ond creIlJfi~h}
aquatic mammals, aquatic bi rds and insects; that day, it 'Was also decorated with a 3.80, m long
crocodile. Today it i~ a sun- baked sterile mUdd'J ditch through a 10 km long gravel pit through
large scale and productive rice and corn fields.
This is probably also the best place to mention that Costa Rican la'w' requires that an
environmental impact study be conducted andreported before a gold mining concession can be
\%rked by a company: We have react three, SUCrl studies produced by the Tropical Science Center
in San Jose and as 'We are certai n the 'Writers must have realized, they are absol utel y
meilningless except in providing ~alary to ~omeone.
Here we only mention 8 telling qlJote from
the environmental impact statement ort,mining concession 1653 on Rancho Quemada (northeast of
the Par~, in the R(o Ri yito drsi nage) , After and before a naive rationalization as toho'W mi ni rig
up to 10m on each ~ide of the streams would have little effect on the envi rQnment, it is ~tated (p.
53) that ttiere is 1ittle to 'w'orry about since "observations on the vegetation in 'the zone to be
affected by the gold mi ni ng sho'w & forest characteristic of the protected forests of the Osa
Peni nSlJla, contai r.i ng ~;pecies that are not considered rare, or ; n danger of exti nction; and are
'v/ell reRreeented in Pargue Nacional Corcovado ", We must admit thatthis rationalization is a
ne\;I uee for a National Park, one that had not occurred to us, Hlie i~ oot the place for e head-on
attack of ritual environmental impact ~tudiee of gold mining companies, tiUt. it ~eem~ clear to us
trl5t a very
different formula
a traditional environmental impact statement is needed to
'-' .... '
place the val ue and costs of company-level gold mi ni og in the context of regional development
plene in Coeta Rica. Thorough \\/ater - based gold mi ni ng destroys the river bed end the river afllj
that is the end of the matter. While there malJ be places and river types to 'v'hich thie statement!
does not appl IJ, they are not the small rivers of the Osa Peni nsula. But then agai n; if the
surroundi ng area is to be converted t(1 si mple agriculture and ani ma1 husbandrr;., then equal
conversion of the 'river to 8 drat nage ditch may not be out of order.
In closing, on bio109ica1 imract
Gold mining has caused and is still causing very severe damage to the aquatic habitats in the
southern portion of Corcovaeo National Park. If it conti nues, even at its contemporary'
non-pump levels, virtually all of these aquatic habitats 'dill be irreversibly destroyed. The
10 nge r it co nti nues, the fe\de r ti ny s urvi vi ng aq ueti c ref ugi a the re \dill be t hat are mai nta; ni ng
species that can colonize the watercourses once reclamation begins . and the more species there
\\"il be that vlill become locally extinct rather than just exist at a 10\" density. Additionally, \"e
should observe that there are undoubtedly numerous local species populations in the
fast-flov/ing Park streams nlat occur onllJ there because a) that is the onllJ place thel,J are found,
and/or b) thei r equivalent habitats in other parts of Costa Rica have been exti nguished (or are
for elemi netion).
Howeve r the re is ani mpo rta nt and deli cate matte r of ti mi ng t hat needs to be di sc ussed
the fact that it is susceptible to misinterpretation.
It appears to us that the damage 'w'i1l
be approximately the same, if the mining remains at its current levels for the next 1-2 months,
as iflt is halted tomorro\y'. The streams are already severely damaged and the fe'/I remaining
undamaged streams are highl y significant refugia wit hi n each independent river system. We 38'hl
no evi de nee that mi ni ng i nte nsit y is unde rgoi ng any si gni fi ca nt i nc ~easeat the mo me nt,
assuming that the presence of pumps is maintained at its current very low level. The rainy
~eason h8~
another 4 months at 1eest to run, so that the next pulse of dry~see$on threat to the
aquatics will not occur immediately (nl;s is not a trivial consiaeration: it appeared to us that a
number of very small creeks, creeks that could be refugia, are bei ng mi ned this rai ny ~;eason fot"
the first time). In short, the long-term protective advantage and the minimization of social
disruot;on·to be gai ned from 1- 2 months of explicit planni ng and action before the eviction v/i11
far out'weigh the ecological consequences of permitti ng the mi ni Og to conti nue at its present
level for that period.
Ho'w long 'llill it ta~~e for the aquatic slJ~term in the southern parts of the Park to recover?
The faster the stream flo"iI) the rockier the $ediment input, the more rain) the fe'y/er the miners,
Hie steeper the slopes, Hie festerthe stream 'w'ill return to hydraulic similaritlJ to the
I):-e- mi ner
We 61so suspect that Hie rate of return of bio1oqical$IJ$tems 'w'ill
approxi matel y mi rror this progression. We susped that ''I/'e are tal ki rig of 2-10 years for the
etretlrflS, 10- 50 lJear3 fClf the inter-mediate streams . end 50-1000 lJear-s
for the lo\,/est and most Slovl-fio"h'i ng fivers. HO'h'ever, ' . . here a species of ani mal has been
exti nguished from a river system, the ti me to re-establishment is at present unk-no'w'able and
depends as much on the dispersal and colonization abilities of the ani mal as on the details of
hydraulic recovery orthe stream. V'lhat we can say is that the stream has to be at least partly
recovered before colonization is 1; ke1 Y. and reasonabl Ycomplete biological recovery \-iill al . .lays
lag \. . ell beh; nd hydraulic recovery.
In sum, the rivers and creeks; n the southern thi rd of the Park have been converted from
clear-\vater condl!its rich in detritivore- based food chai ns to liquid deserts by the sedi ment
inputs from the mining operations. A beautiful photograph ofa clear rainforest river and
waterfall, such as adorn~ the cover of the 1984 Annual Report of the National Parks foundation
of Costa Rica, is simply impossible to take in the southern third of Corco va do National Park at
present. Costa Ricans._ foreign tourists, and biologists \y'm flock to an intact rainforest to enjoy
and study and understflnd. They 'w'on't go at present to the southern thi rd of Corcovado for any of
Io,the t~lo clear-'vlater streams \ve encountered, conspicuous
shrimp (fresh'w'ater crayfish), fish, crabs, aquatic insects and algae remained. These appeared
to be enti rel1J ab~ent from the 11
~edi me nt-filled
major streams end small rivers that "lie
examined dO'vlnstream from the goldmines and at the gold mines. Yes, thorough sampling "tlit~'
toxic chemicals (e.g., rotenone) might turn up an occasional survivi ng member of a fish or
crustacean population, but that seems a high price to demonstrate Quantitativel y the obvious
di ffe re nce bet'w'een, fo r eX8 mp1e, the Rlo Ri nco n 80d the Rlo Pavon.
We do not kno'y! hoW' long it takes for conti nous sedi ment discharge into a river to eli mi nate
most of its aquatic life·, but su~;pect 1-12 months to be 8
figure. Uke\vise recovery
rates, once gold mini(ig has stopped, will range from a fe'w years to as much 8S 8 thousand,
dependi ng on the slope of the'stream bed and the amount of 'Water it carries. It should e1so be
emphasized that allo'y/ing mining (or any other kind) of destruction of just one of the river
systeITJ8 (e.g., RiO Claro.,
Rro Madri.gal) ..."ill slo'w' the rate of recolonization of the neighbori ng
river systems by eli mi nati ng colonization propagules. It is even possi ble that for complete
recuperation, some human-aided transfer of fish and cru~;taceans among the Corcovado rivers
ma1J be necessary (though very difficult because W'e W'ill never knoW' if the absence of a
particular species is natural or Caused by the damage to t.he river).
The pJ!.Rulation of rniners.
It i$ ea$IJ to sit in San Jose and speak of "the gold. rlli ners" as if it \'/ere one homogeneous
group, but only a fevl hours travel in the Puerto Jimenez-Corcovado reqion makes it obvious
that there are many species of gold mi nefS and other ki nd·s of people di reetl y involved 'With the
gold mi ners. For the purposes of generalization, I 'w'm divide them approxi matel y into "old ti me
gold panners", modern resident miners (profess·ionals and apprentices), farmers, and
commercial mutuelists \·lHh the miners. Eachofthese groups., and numerous other smaller
produce some\\lhat different SOCial and biological
vlith respect to both thei r
eviction from the Park and futu~e possibilities of mai ntai ni ng the Park free of gold mi ni ng (as
'w'ell es other impacts).
There has never been 8 thorough census of the gold mi ner population in Corcovado National
Park, and one 'Would be a 'Waste of ti me unless of i ntri nsic interest to an academic human
. demographer. Hov/ever, numerous partial censuses and our inspection tour a11o\\1
range of val ues. Speak; ng of all
to bracket a
and the; r dependents; n the Park at the present (late
,.June 1985) the actual number 1.ies between 800 and 2200 (including turnover).
Furthermore., 'vie feel that it is very likely that the real number lies at about 1400 persons. Of
the~e epproxi matellJ 900 ~hould be counted as actual \t/orki ng mi ner3. If vie err in any
significant sen~;e in these figures, it is in bei ng too high, rather trlan too 10\\1. At this poi nt \\Ie
ignore the amounts and sizes of gold mi ni ng compa·nies both because there 'w'ere none actualllJ
'w'o r ki ng at prese nt 0 n the ri ve rs 'w'e exa mi ned, and beca use all of t hei r acti vi ti es have bee n
outside of Hie Park and they preserltl y pose no di rect threat to Hie Park.
There are many aetails of'w'hat these numbers actually count and ho'vI one arrives at them that
are di rect1 y perti nent to the problem.
1. Whether the number is 80.0,1200 or 2000, the evacuation, preparation for it, and its
afte r mat h 'Will be esse nti all y t he sa me, and the refo re a detail ed ce n~IIJS is not cri ti cal to the
2. Dur; ng i nterv;e'vls of mi ners at thei r residences or mi nes in the
the follo'Wi ng
:5cen~rio i nv~ri~bl y occurred.
"Hol,y' many miners are there 'vIorking in this section of several kilometers of river"?
After some thought, the reply ~as "2
there, 3 here, 1 dovn there, 40ver there", with a
total of, 1et'~ salJ, 13 miners and 2 'Wives and 3 children; Hie total
then given as 12:.
"And ho'W many miners do you think are 'working in the Park"?
"Oh, 2,000 to 3,000". (The range of numbers given in response to this question veried
from 2,000 to 40,000 over ~bout 30 inter'·/iel,./:~, but better than 90% of i ntervie·,;/ee~; put
number bet'w'een 2 . 000 and 3 . 000), (The June 1985 p1anning r'eport for the Osa Pe'nin:su1;;: by
the t1i nistry of National Planni n9 and Economic Policy 9ive~; the
population of the
Peni nsula as about 6,000 persons pl us another 1,500- 3,000- person "floati ng population" of!,
mi ners, a large fraction of 'w'hicn ''lie suspect are inside the Park).
" And where 'ar.e all these other mi ners"?
"Oh, over in river such and such". One then goes over to river such and such, the intervie\\,' is
the same, and the. large b01jy of mi flers i$ then declared to be over in some other river drai nage,
someti mes i nc1 udi ng the one \v'here the previous i ntervie\\1 occurred,
The si mple poi nt is that the mi ners have no idea ho\,/ many mi ners there are in the Park. The
causes are due to a) 'general incompetence at understandi ng the relevance of samples (\\Ihere they
live) to the overall population in the Park, and b) unfamiliarity with the areal extent of the
,Park and many parts of it. When many miners speak of "Corcovado National Park", they knoW'
that they are "inside" of it (although t'w'O miners told us they \o/ere mining in the Park but in fact
\v'ere \\Iell outside of it), but have no clear idea of \y'hat the Park i~; in relation to the enti re Osa
Peni nsula, HO'vlever, the mi ner's statements (esti mates is an incorrect \oIord for thei r fiQures)
of hO'w' many miners there are in the Park is an important ingredient,in the situation bec8u~;e
\oIhat they say bolsters the opi nions of outside persons and agencies as to the magnitude of the
personnel problem.
3. Statements blJ the miners (as \oIell as by others) as to the numbers of miners in the Park
is the fi rst datum to be discussed he're that has the property of appear; ng to be a fact in nature
and use, but in fact is si mpl y a statement that can be mani pulated conscious1 y and unconsciousl y
by anyone concerned, However, the "number of mi ners" datum is some'w'hat
in that it is
vi rtuall y to the adva'ntage of all concerned to either believe that it is large,( irrespective of ho\'!'
many miners are actually there, if the number is greater than trivial) o~,to have it be large:
s. The mi ners 'w'ant the est; mate to be large because it gives them th~ sense of security of
both belongi ng to a large group and bei ng morall y correct, si nce a SUbstantial portion of the
definition of being morally correct is that many people believe in it. They also \o/ant the estimate
to be large because, as they can see quite clearl y, a large group has had the po'w'er to paral yze the
Park system long enough for. 8 quite substantial extraction of gold and long enough to get
dangerousl y close to bei ng ,able to clei m the land because of duration of occupancy,
b, The commercial interests in the vicinity of the Park 'y/ant the estimate to be large because
elarger volume of profits, because the longer the miners-stay Hie greater their
short-term profits, because they feel they have more politica11everage in their arQuments "on
behalf of tt:e miners" ifthere are many mi ners, and because the more miners ttlere are the more
outside communitlJ of miners and lando"dners will resist t~leir expulsion from HIe Park,
c. Various members of the National Par-k Service rlave 'Wanted to thi nk or feel that it is large
because the greater the population of O1i rrers, the greater the threat to the Park and therefore ,
the more legiti mate some sort of total eviction; if the nUIJlber . ./ere mi nlJte, the mi ners could be
ignored (as they 'Were when the Park 'w'as established) but if the numbers are to be significant,
then the greater.the better, si nee intermediate numbers seem to make more acceptable some sort
of i ntermedi ate sol ution (and see d~ bel 0\\,' ). Ho\\·'ever, 'w'hat is consistentl y forgotten in the
numbers game is that even a very small number of gold mi ners 'Worki ng i ntensive1 y over a
number of years \\Iill do an enormous amount of damage over ,\'hat has a1 read1J been done, and
fi nalize that 'Which has al ready occurred ..
d. Various members of the National Park Service want it to be large (as '\'/e11 as fierce)
because a large number of gold mi ners legit; mizes thei r fail 'ure to resolve the matter duri ng the
past 5 years that the number has been growing as 'w'ell as progressively destroying the Park.
However, we must
it emphatica11 if clear that in reality, today, vi rtuall y all members of
the Park Service ferventl1J wish that the actual number of gold miners in the Park vas
extremel y small to non-existent.
e. Many government agencies want:U to be large (as well ~s dangerous) simply because it
rei nforces the long-established stereotype of the Osa Pen; nsu1a as ala'vlless outbaCK, which i rtturn legit; mi2e~ the (until vertJ recently) vi rtuell y total disi nterest in the central governme'ht
in developing this part of Costa Rica. Ten docile 1a'w'-abiding citizens are not much different
from 50 in terms of cooperation 'vIith the government, but 50 "undesirables" are 5+ times
worse than are 10 "undesirables".
4. There is strong seasonal fl uctuation in the numbers of mi ners in the Park for t'w'o reasons.
Duri ng~he' dry season, 'Water levels fall in the upper (smaller) streams so 10'1'1 that mi ni ng is .
vi rtuall y i mpossi ble and the mi ners move down into the larger river beds ('Which are also therl .
lessi ndanger of destructive floodi ng duri ng actus 1'vIor k), The resulti ng dry season crowdi ng
and 'Worseni ng of worki ng conditions results in numer'ous mi ners goi ng outside of the Park to
other kinds of employment or activities. Second, a3 many as 30% of the miners havefarms
outside of the Park (at least five mi ners .suggested the figure to be 50%) , and the ti me and
that they spend mi ni ng gold 13 therefore in part dictated by the harvest, etc. demands of
ttlosef8rms (fineas). In addition to these two seasonal causes in fluctuations of numbers of
miners., there is e more uniform movement in arld'out of the Park as minerslea'/e to visit
families in nearolJ to\'lnS and farms at biYleekl y to monthl y intervals.
These three processes 'w'ork; ng tOI]ether mean that an1J snapshotof the actual numbers of
',>/orki ng end livi ng in the Park 'Ilill
give e eignificantl y lO\'/er number than the
tot:jl number of mif:ers that are mining in the Park. Hovever, our estimate of 800-2200 is
intended to represent that true total at present.
5. The composition of miners presently 'yiorking in Corcovado (not counting family
members) is, 'We feel, divided into about 50 "old ti me mi.ners", about 600 modern mi nen
250 mi ners 'w'ho regularil y enter from some other occupation (usuall y a farm or city
employment). If there is an error in this figure, it is most 1i kel yin an underesti mate of the
number of part-ti me miners that are still in the process of enter; ng from ti me to ti me.
6. When people outside of the Park mention the "gold miners in Corcovad~" and estimates of
ho'vl many there are, the l) are commonl y confused in thei r o\tln mi nds as to \\Ihat proportion are
actually in the Park and 'w·hat proportion are mining e1se\y'here in the Peninsula. \OVhile such
people, especially the local merchants, may understand fairly well where the Park boundaries
lie in the immediate vici nity, they do not have a clear idea of ' . . hat fraction of thei t· customers
are truly from i nside- the Park. Further;more, as mentioned above, it is very much to thei r
to declare that there is a very large body of miners 'ylithin the Park, 'ylith the dual
of sca ri ng aut ho riti es into fea ri ng acti 0 n agai nst the mi ne rs i n t he Pa r k and ma ki ng those 0 utsi de
of the Park all the more emphatic about not wanting all of "that" turned loose on the remainder
of the community as gold mi ni ng competitors.
8. In measuring the effects of the miners, the numbe·rs may not be relevant so much as hoYl
many mines there are of what size (though the number of miners·is clearly relevant to the ;'
eviction). For example, we discovered that an incoming miner malJ purchase mining
from previous miners, and that some persons may actually prefer to open ·up a mine (or mine
tunnel) and then sell t he rights and move on in search of better sites. An ordi nar y mi ni ng area
yeildi ng perhaps an average of a half 8 gram of gold per day might be 'w'orttl 10,000 to 15,000
colones . 'w'hile is very good site might be worth 8S much 83150,000 colones. Agiven mine then
may ~;upport a succession of mi ners over ti me, but have Hie same impact as if onl y one person
'w'as 'wo r ki ng it.
What sort of p'eop'le are the miners?
Le8vinq aside the ··old time miners", there are 1'wo conspicuously overlappinq kinds of miners
in the Park - the full time miners and the part time miners. that enter from time to time. I'will
discuss these t·1I0 overlappi ng groups sequentiall y.
The full-time miners. This very large group is the majority of miners in the Park. It malJ
be approximatel y di·. .·ided into t'w'O subgroups - professionals and apprentices. We define the
profeSSionals as triose i ndi·. .·iduals who tlave been mi ni ng in ttle Park (or in 3i milar
ci rcumstances) for 1 t03- 5 years and reall y know 'w'hat they are doi ng. They live ina hOlJse
constructed of a plastlc roofand relativellJ open \. . . a1h near tt~e 'y/ork area, and often h3 . . . e a
famiJ IJ in some outside place (Golfito, Puerto Jimenez, San Isidro del General, Pal mar, Uppala,
or even further a\v'ay) that they visit at several 'w'eek to several month i ntervals.
mai ntai n
that the fa mil y is greatl y or totan y dependent on the mone IJ made by the goid mi ni ng. HtelJ tend
to be 25 to 40 years of age, alert, well-mannered, soft-spoken, intelligent, capab.le of carrying~
on logical and complex verbal discussions, friendl y, and frequentl y back up thei r opi nions 'w'ith
rationalizations or. seemi ngl y factual observations. They repeatedl y mentioned
'v/ere Hie tranquil and boss-free 'vlorking conditions \v'ithin the Park. While "adventure"and the
1ure of "stri ki ng it rich" is defi nitel y and admittedl y a part of t~ei r coriceptualization of \\.' hat
they are doing, they also appeared to be quite reconciled to the obvio·us fact that the kind of gold
, mining they 'w'ere practicing 'w'as neither adventurous nor likely to lead to a major find.
I n most 'w'orki ngs of such persons, a person can perhaps average (over a year) a gram of gold
per day of hard 'v/ork (equal to 500 colones at the Banco Central in Puerto ,Jimenez, or
450-490 colones in a general store, or $10.00).(To this seemingly lo'w' income figure needs to
be added that they pay"no rent, but are paying 20-100% higher prices for food
in the
pulperias available to them near the Park 8S compared with "outside prices" (to purchase
minimal foods from 8 general store (plJlperia) requires approximately 85 colones per day., to
eat very \\/ell requi res approxi matel y l40 colones per day). Additional1 y, 8 week's food must be
carried 1- 6 hours on foot (one 'w'ay) this tri p often destroys the-better part of one 'w'ork; ng day.
The traditional
for such
is to mi ne from about 6 am to 2 pm, \v'ith an
occasional day off to explore or relax. By \y'ay of contrast, an unskilled laborer (ditch digger
machete s'w'i nger) in Costa Rican society receives a dail y salary of 150- 250 colones ·per day at
We 'v'ere left with the distinct impressl0n that such professional gold miners had survived
for SUbstantial periods at quite some -oUier ki nd of employment prior to bei ng gold mi ners. At
1east fi ve i nte rvi ewees had 'w'O r ked fo r the la rge ba na na co mpa ni es i n t he Go 1fito - Pa 1rna r regi 0 n
before they c1ose!j dO'Yln over the past 2-4 years. Others had been bus drivers, taxi drivers,
factory workers, farmers, fishermen, coffee pickers, and ranch hands.
The professional full-time miners 'Ylere almost invariably accompanied blJ a.pprentices,
substantially younger men wrlo had beenrrlining gold from 1 day to sev~ral months. They had iii
effect apprenticed themselves to the experienced
and it ',/8S also clear that the size and
extent of the vorki ngs of the experienced mi ners was substantial1 y dependenton tr;t labor of
these helpers. V{hile it 'vias stated that they "divided" the gold, the proportional-shares "t/ere not
discussed. Several experienced men stated Ulat they 'v/ere Quite 'w'illing to teach ne'Ylcomers the
basic technolog'J of gold mlning in these rivers_
These apprentices had clearl y corne to be gold mi ners becalJee of the "adventure" t
the!J I:ne\'! ~~meone (relative ('r neighbor) who 'vIas al ready doi ng it, because UlelJ -could not
fi nd a job at home" (home bei ng from allover Costa Rica)) and because Uiey 'ylere frustrated
with the long hours and congested conditions ofcitlJ life. These apprentice mi ners "lere in
general Quiet and polite, and listened to the i ntervieYls wjth interest, but they h;JJj1ittle opi nion
to offer other than factual items such as from what town they came from and ho'w' long they had
been there. What was conspicuousl y different about this ki nd of apprentlceshi p from that
occuri ng in other trades 'w'as that after several years of doi ng it, the person actual1 y kne'w'
nothi ng of use in gai nful employment else'Wher~. The art of diggi ng a bed of. goid- beari ng sand
into a river and \v'ash; ng it through a 31 ui~e box prepares one for little more than bei ng a
ditch-digger. .
It is our guess that among the 600 or M flJll-ti me mi rrers in the Park , perhaps 8S meny a$
half are apprentices and are "tryi ng thei r hand at it to see hov it goes ".
The Rsrt-ti me mi ners. Corcovado Nationsl Park ~onta.i ns an amazi ng collection of tho::;e 'W~IO
have jobs or small farms (fincas) elsey/here, but partly for the adventure/partly for the hODe
of stri ki ng it rich, and partl y because it is a slack season else'Where have corne to try thei r hand
at mining. We met an accountant from San Jose, the o'Wner ofa prosperous finea near Alajuela . a
store owner from Golfito a S'Wiss farmer i and 8 devout member of 8 religous group locall y
centered in Dos Brazos (the latter had been censused on his farm 'w'ithinthe Park., and ',lias to be
compcMafed by the Costa Rican Park Service , but had not yet been; while he hed 3topped
farmi ng, he intended to mi ne until the Park Service paid off the farm and he was told to leave
his gold mi ne). We 'Were left 'With the impression that most farmers in the area mi ne gold
during their slack season . and it was evidentthat the o'Wners of the farms.'Within the Park (see
belo",/) had also been gold miners.
The part-ti me ml ners that 'We met withf~ the .Park (as opposed to some of those 'We met in
Puerto Ji menez) \llere as 'We11- mannered and cal ml y friendl y as were Hie fu11-ti me miners that
'We met. They were generall y quite able .to. descri be themselves thei r activities) and thei r
motivations. ThelJ 'v/ere not , hOYlever , any more competent at understanding either the·.··
magnitude of Ule mi ner population or its impact on the Park than were the ful1-ti me mi ners.
The part-ti me mi ners would appear to be much less of a problem than ar~ the full-tl me
mi ners i n'an evacuation of the Park , because they have other liveli hoods to turn·to. HO\y'ever
they require inclusion in any planning
they and their social descendants vill'al'Ways be a
potential Hlreat to the Park. furthermore , there are t\N'O kinds. There are the young to
middle-aged farme..-::; who occasionally mine , and there are older long-time residents ofUle
Peninsula that long ago mined gold but no 'vI are relativellJ wealthy and 'Well-established in maolJ
kinds of negotiations but for various rea'30ns count themselves among the "gold mirrere".· This
oct \\'33 exce pti 0 na lllJ 'We 11- re prese nted at the meeti ng i 0 Pue rto Ji me nez. Beea use of t hei r
positions of po\.;"er- and respect in the community., such people ~an be either pO"derful friends or
enemies, dependi ng on where the~ see thei r Tortunes fa11i ng -
are obvious challenges for
the public relations component of the eviction and after\y'ords.
Are mi ners farmers? 'Ne 'Were repeatedl y told in Sao Jose, Puerto Ji menez and even in the
Park'that "gold rni ners are not farmers" and therefore it does no good to thi nk of sol utions such
as evicti ng them from the Park and expecti ng them to turn to other livel; hoods. HO'w'ever, it is
our opinion that perhaps as
of the gold miners in the Park are now or recently have been
farmers, and many others have worked atother professions. Ves, it is clear that the~e are some
, o.ld timemi ners 'w'ho have been mi ners most of thei r adult lives but they are certai nl y less than
5% of the gold mi ners worki ng in the southern thi rd of the Park.
The farmers \\Iithi n the Park.
When Corcovado National Park 'w'as first establish.ed in 1975, there 'w'ere better than 160
farmers living in the area. All of these (except the "old time gold miners") \-/ere paid for their
farms and evacuated from the Park (and many 'w'ere relocated in Canaza, a small nev to\v'n north
of.Puerto Jimenez and to the east of the central portion of the Park, Figure 1). These farmers
are nO\\1 restless over the gross1 y unopti mal farmi ng and livi ng conditions in Caoaza.as compared
'w'ith their rainforest farms in the Park (petition/letter to Ugalde, 14 March 1985) and are
threatening to rei nvede thc
thei r problem end it~ ~ol ution
become pert of the
post-eviction progr;3m for the integration (If the Park into the community, but we do not discuss
it further here. When the eastern Park boundaries 'w'ere widened to give the Park a more solid
figure and insure that all of the Parl:'s drainage basins originated in the ParK, about 30 more
small farms \.;ere found to be inside of the Park boundaries. For the most
the ovriers of
these farms have bee:n paid off and many have left, and the remai nder 'w'i1lleave as the' legal
tanQles over thei r lands are straightened out (e.g., the o\yner dro'wns, the wife clai ms the
compensation but t'w'O of the deceased o'w'ner's friends mai ntai n that the farm was meant to go to
them). While these fermers 'w'ere all gold mi ners (and hunters), and thus 'Were part of the
damaging forces 'withl n the Park, they no longer pose a major threat si mpl y because they have
been removed (in a socielly acceptable manner). To the degree that some may return (and'one
has already done so), they may be then pooled vith the other miners for the sake ofplanning.
Another has taken to renti nq his former farm as a house site to Gold mi ners. At the moment
. . . .
farms and farming in the Park ere not a major environmental threat inside the Perk, but
farmi fig looms on the horizon in the form of agrochemical co ntarni nation and squatters in the
upcoming crunch for Costa Rican farmland.
The gold mi ners to date have shown vi rtuall y no i ncli nation toward ~ubetantial farmi ng and
more permanent setlern-::nt "!lithi n nre Park. Ho'y/e'.,ler, it is obvious that
the mi ners'
ci rcumstances conti nue as they are ,a certai nand growi ng number of mi ners will fi nd farmi ng
(i ncludi ng mi nor p;:,sturi ng) \1'iUd n the Park to be evermore attractive a$ thei r particuiar gold
mines give out and entire river slJstems are finalllJ cleaned oftl1e most easily accessible gold.
Al ready the banks of the RiO Claro and R(o Madrigal are sno'w'i ng the fi rst signs of very$~ail ~
amounts of cultivation in the form of vegetables (green beans . tomatoes., culandro) gro'w'n around
the houses. Man!;! hectares or' prj mary forest on the banks of the
RiO Ri nCon across from '(0 utsi de
of) the Park have been cleared and planted to corn this year. In the case mentioned above of a
former farmi ng r.enti ng his house site to gold mi ners} it was clear Ulat one of tt:e attractions of
the house site "las abundant frilit trees; fresh green beans were being cooked for lunch .. At the
head'w'ate rs of t he RiO Ag uj as , 'Well i nsi de the Pa r k, a mi ne r 's ho use had to matoes gro~i ng at the
front door. Avariety of-garden vegetat,les, pineapples, bananas and beans were being grO\l"n at
the five- house "village" at La Torre; 'w'e were given t'w'o liters of fres~1 beans as a goi ng-away
present by one mi ner. One cannot expect- mi ners 'With families to live \y'ithout vegetable and
fruit vitami ns just because they may decide to change house sites to follo'w' mi ni ng conditions in
the upcomi ng years. HO\y'ever, once a small farm, next a medi um-sized farm .....
This threat must be viewed in the context that Costa Rica has a long traditional
legal homesteading on "unused".forest lands, irrspective of who o'w'ns them on paper, .Once again
'vie are up agai n$t the fact that part of the ease of invasion and occupation of the Park by the gold
miners is directly attributable to the lack of apparent o'w'nership and use. When discussin ,; "
alternative areas for mi ni ng outside of the Park, at least five i ntervie'w'ees made it clear that one
of the major unattractive thi ngs about the land outside of the Park is that someone
u.nambiguousl ~ owns it (except for the. Forest Reserve), and that someone takes a di.m vie'vl of
'gold miners 'w'orking on his land. Added to this soup must be the fact that in Costa Ries,'it has
~ho long been traditional to forci bl y or with the blessi ngs of some government agency to.
homestead large blOCKS of state or large company lands (e.g., watersheds or Forest Reserves,
abandoned banana plantations). In the mi ner's mi nds, the species "National Park" fits 'Wit hi n .
the genus "unused State-o'Wned land, legitimately colonized ifthere is sufficient "need".
Commercial mutus1ists with the mi ners.
It is self-evident that a population of \Ii-orkers bri ngi ng ina half a million dollars a year IlI'in
be a major resource for the commerciaUnterests of a nearby small to'v/n and rural communitl).
Corcovado is no exception. The greatest importance of t~is community from the vievpoi nt of this
report centers around its conception of the Park and of the Park's gold mi ners, and as·a potentia1
source of organization andlor action by the gold mi ners. Here I brjefilJ mention the more
conspiclJous traits of this community, the traits that are unsvoidab1e in any djscu;:sion of
e. . . acuation of the mi ners from Corcovado.
1. Puerto Ji menez (Figure 1) is the commercial center of the region (ai rpot-t, medical
Rural Guard post, hotels, bars, stores, soccerfield . government branch offices,
central bank office, etc.). The Banco Central e::.timates that the Puerto Jimenez branch is
annuall y payi ng about $2,000,000 (US) for gold and that one quarter (If thi~; gold comes from;
within the Park (Lie. Oscar Salazar, Seccion Metale$ Precioso$, during the meeting on 1 July).
These figures are'can be determined because when the miner sells his gold, he gives his name and
place of mining, and the.Bank is convinced that Hie miners are not at all reluctant to state that
they are mi ni ng in the Park. HOw'ever, si nce about 30% of the total gold comes from large
companies (and the revenue from it is probabl y not spent much in the Puerto Ji menez area) ,
, the Park is probabl y provid; ng about one thi rd of the gold-caused income of the OS8 Pen; nsula.
On ttle one hand, the removal of this \\fill be a substantial loss to local commercial i nterest~;, and
it is obvious that they know it. On the other hand, not all the gold-caused income of the mi ners
is bei ng spent near the Park, si nee it is 'Obvious that many are usi ng at least part of thei r income
to support relatives \/lell aw'ay from the Peninsula.
S; nce many of the gold mi ners to be evacuated from the Park 'Would probel:tl y not conti nue to
mine in the area immediately outside of the Park, increased mining in such nearby alternative
areas should not be expected to provide enough nev gold to. compensate for the loss of the Park as
o ~ource.
2. When the mi ners have small amounts of gold (almost all of the time), they exchange thei'r
gold di rectl y for food and other goods at the general store for a price about 2-10% lower thar!
that paid by the Banco Central.· When they fi nd or accumulate a large amount (Vega esti mates
that perhaps 1- 3% of the mi ners stri ke a rich deposit per year) they go to the Banco Central in
Puerto Ji ~Ienez (500 colones per gram, just slightl y greater than international rates 'Which
effecti ve1y sto ps the 11 ow of ra'w gold 0 ut of t he co unt r y). The ow ne rs of ge ne ral sto res cas r~
thei r gold in the Banco Central in Puerto Ji menez. It is obvious that the general store owners
very neer the Pork ot Rio Rincon, Dos Brazos, Carate, etc. are virtually totally dependent on the
gold flo··. . . i ng OiJt of the Park. It is not clear to what degree the Banco Central correctl y identifies
the gold brought in by the general stores as originating within the ParK, since the stores are
outside of the ParK .
. 3. AlarGe fraction of the population of the Osa Pen; nsula has mi ned gold at one ti me or
another, has friends and neighbors 'Who are or have been gold mi ners, and can see that a major
disruption of the gold 1101", will have 8 depressant i mpact ~n the economy of the region. This
needs to be seen in the context that the Osa Peninsula gold rush has clearly been an economic
boon to the region, and it is re]ljtively synchronolJs with the recent depression of the region's
economy by the closing M banana farming in t~le Golfito-Palmar area (and its replacement by
Hie much les~; labor-l ntensive African oil pal m cultivation).
4. Puerto Jimenez is rich in t\ilO sorts of persons \'/ith strong vocal and political capabilities
8$ '-Iell a$ a $trongl y vested interest; n keepi ng the gold mi ners inside the Park: o\\'ners of
stores, and ov/ners of lands in the vicinity. Any public meeting, as \·/as the one 'w'e
is likely
to be richl y attended (as 'w'ss ours) by suchpeople. Given. the current total absence of fi nancial
g1 ue bet'w'een the
Park and the commercial interests of Puerto Ji menez, the commercial
interests are totall y unli kel y to be altruistic to\v'ard the
and have sho\y'n no signs of
altruism to date. The local land o'w'ners outside of the Park are certai nl y not overjoyed by the
idea of a displaced population of potential squatters on thei r lands (many of 'w'tlich 'Were fi rst
obtai ned by squatti ng on lands o'w'ned by others
is the reality that some of the gold
or the State).
Inextricabl y i ntert'w'i ned 'w'ith this
will actively seek to continue mining outside the
Park, which si mpl y 'w'i11 mean more competi tion for those ""tho are currentl y mi ni ng outside of
the Park, 'w'hether they o'w'n the land or are si ~ply entering a Forest Reserve or private lands
through the same ki nd of force 8S has placed the mi ners in Corcovado (though it is important to
me nti 0 n t hat seve ra 1 mi ne rs me nti 0 ned 'w' hat is 0 bvi 0 us - to mi ne i n Co rcovado, yo u do not have
to fight ~n angry lando'w'ner, onl y the indifference of the State to enforci ng its 0\1n la'. . .'3).
5. While it is easy to see that in the lQf1Q run the economic development of all
of the
Osa Peni nsula might 'w'ell absorb some of the displaced mi ners and replace thei r monetary input
into the community, it is very much of a "in the long run". Any lend development schemes or
sustained yield forestrrJ that is to eventually occupy the O$a Peninsula outside (If the Park \v'ilf'
certai nl y not lack potential employees, and displaced gold mi ners ","'ill be competi ng 'w'ith an
unoccupied labor force from all over Costa Rica, It is imperative to recall that one cannot speak
of the problems and solutions that occur·in the Peninsula de Osa as independent from the rest of
Costa Rica, any more than you can speak of solvi ng '~heeli ng, West Vi rgi nia's problems
independent from the remai flder of the State of West Vi rgi nia. (equal in size to Costa Rica).
6. We 'w'ere repeatedl y struck by the apP'arent ~ilHrigness of members of the community
both outside and inside the Park to at least listen to'1~iC81 arg'umenb about the function of the
'Park and its significance to the local economy, Equall y, it is obvious that Hie communitlJ labors
.' under a large number of totall y false facts (or at least fi n~$ fabrications convenient to relieve
guilt or bolster apparently logical arguments for the presence of the gold miners in the Park),
.. Equall y obvious, the community never been.subjected to any attempt at public relations vith the
Park, biological education by the Park, or integration 'w'ith the Park. Some examples of
. widespread falsehoods that \~Ie encountered are the follo··Ni.ng statements:
s. All of the Peni nsula b inside of Corcovsdo National Park.
b. Corcovado National Park has been bought by gri ngos, and the point of evicting the gold
miners is so that the gringos can mine the gold.
c. He poi nt of rerno'o/i ng Hie gold mi ners is $0 ttl8t the
can then be granted
eoneessio.ns to mi ne the gold.
d. All the gold in the Osa Peni n$ula is inside the Perk.
e. The miners do no damage to the Park,sinee they respect the "fauna y flora" .
f. The Park belongs to Costa Rica, I am
a Costa Rican, and therefore I have the right to mi neH,
as I please (the Banco Central, incidentally, may be subject to the same logic).
g. The gold be; ng extracted is sa'li ng the national economy .
h. The gold must be extracted rather than leave it there to go to w'aste.
1. The entire Park is occupied by gold miners ..
j. All gold mi ners in the Park W'ill be out of W'ork and starve if the eviction occurs.
k. It is the responsi bility of the S~ate.to f; nd jobs for the gold mi ners if they are evicted from
1. The Park is of flO val ue to either the Qsa Pen; nsula or the country.
m. The gold mi ners are innocent of hav; ng broken any law.
n. The damaoe to the Park \vas all done blJ other people.
o. The majorit y of the gold mi ners are alcoholics illegal immigrants, fugitives from the laW' .
drug addicts, military mercenaries - .\his opi nion is \'lidespread in the rest of Costa Rica but
. only vaguely referred to by locals and.the gold miners themselves. The closest W'e w'ere able to
get to the "fugitives from the low" e~pect wes the firmly held opinion that most fugitives were.
fleeing child support and felt justified in thatthe forrner W'ife 'w'as living W'ith another man. "
What W'e sa'w', and 'w'hat I have seen in the past in the region, is that the Osa Peninsula is
populated by vi rtu311 y the same species of country fol k as are encountered; n any other rural
area of Costa Rica (vihich is not terri bl y surprisi ng si nce a large number listed thei r or;g; os as
other rural areas of Costa Rica).
p. The damage done by the gold miners;s really just the same as "environmental damage by
nature" in that it mi mies landslides.
Corcovado is the onl y aree in this region of the country where there is extrectable gold. In
contrast, Vega notes that there are large gold deposits in Isla Violines (Boca RiO 5ierpe),
Esqui nas (head of Hie Golfo Dulce), and in other river systems in southeastern Costa Rica. His
commentary is backed up by a "regionalization" report of the Ministry of Energy and Mines
(1984). 10 repl y to this comment, at least five m; ners in the Park noted that it W'ould be "too
difficult" to go to these other places.
7. There are several buses operating in and out of Pu~rto Jimenez and there is the usual
motley collection of vehicles to be expected in and around a small farmi ng toW'n. HO'v/ever, there
is certainly no W'ell-developed system of transport, public or private, that could be used blJ H!e
mi ners at the ti me of the eviction in order to move thei r material possessions to 'wherever they
decide to go. Liquidatiorl of mining gear is likeW'ise certainllJ not a solution, since at the time of
the evacuation . the market 'Will be glutted \. . ith used irrigation pipe - an item not in hot demand
i n Pue rto j; me nez at t he best of ti rnes. The re is, t,O\'ieve r, the pos:::; oi 1; t y of ::;0 rrreo rre ar ra rrg; fig
'w'ith;J major user ofirrigation pipe from elsel/lhere in the countnj to be on hand to
at 8 red ueed rate, the re by i ne reasi ng t he cas h (I n ha rrd t hat a gold rni ne r has to get sta rted
else. . . . here and reduc; ng the 1; k1; hood that he 'Will s; mpl y return to m; ni ng in the Park. Such an
arranaement could, for example, be facilitated by the tv1inistry of Public W'ork~; 8nd Transport
offer; ng free transport of the purchased p; pe to someone; n the t1eseta Cent ral.
t1i ner's ORi nions on the Park -as a Rark
If ",Ie heard it once from;') mi ner} 'We heard it 30 ti me$ "We believe in the idea of a National
Park, and \ye respect the fauna and flora; our mi ni ng does not hurt them", The statements \yere,
so ritualized and so si milar from person to person, that it is clear that some aspect of the
conservationist's credo has been successful in reach; ng these mi ners (probably at home, rather
than; n the Park i-tself), HO'w'ever} there is also a po'Werfu1 ; ncentive ; n hear; ng and repeat; ng
these 'Words, si nce in the habitual intellectual rationalization so common among Costa Ricans .
those 'Words can go along \\/alJ tOI,\,'ards relievi ng the guilt and "lorry generated by kno\\/i ng that·
they ar.e explicitly breaki ng Costa Rica la'Ws - and explicitl y breaki og 1a''1/s (as contrasted to
bendi ng them here and there) is morall y unpopular among an amazi ngl y high proportion of C~~te'
Ricans. The mi ner's vie'Ws in detail on thefr i mpa~t on the Park ~trongl y suggest that they have
no idea 'What is meant by "respect the fauna and flora".
While our goal
to make our inspection tour a pi1gri mage to educate mi ners . it 'Was
aD propriate to occasionally rep1 y to a mi ner's recitation of faith in the goodness of a park and his
trivial impact on it. Janzen said., yes, 'We can see that you are not personall y doi ng anythi ng to
either the forest or the ani mals} but perhaps you have forgotten about the aquatic plants and
ani ma1s', You must remember that the purpose .of a national park is to protect the aquatic
orgoni3m3 as' 'Well os the terrestrial ones .•Janzen's comment vle~ generall y met 'With 30me
version of "yes, I see what you mean" and the conversation stopped there, HO'ylever, in two cases
there \Yas a revea1i ng repl y, Shri mp (= crayfish) had been specificall y mentioned to one
person and after thi nki ng for some ti me, he sajd "yes, but afterall, there are lots of shri mp in
the ocea n", Aseco nd i nte rvi e'w'ee seve ra1 de ys late r sal d "yes, I ca n see that 0 ur mi ni ng has
destroyed the rivers in the ParK, but in fact the gold is 'Worth more to the country (to its
economy). than are th'e fish".
After all the intervie'Ws we 'w'ere left 'w'ith the dis~inct impression thaf'We 'were dealing with a__
highl y rational population that b quite accustomed to usi ng sIJPP03ed fects to support doll y and
more long-term decisions about themselves and thei r neighbors, That the facts \dere generall y
\Yrong and that most of the discussion 'Was in the form of rationalizations is irrelevant. It is our
prediction that the population is highly ed.ucatable ,about both their true impact on the Park, the
true val ue of the Park to the country and to them, and the necessity of evicti ng them.
furthermore, 'w'e feel that Hie miner's feeling thafit is reasonable to be mining gold in Ule Park
can be strongly undercut by providing him 'w'ith detailed refutation of many of the "facts" he
spouts. The purpose of such an exercise is NOT to defeat him in debate, but rather to max:e him'
prone tovie'W
occupation of the Park as hol y (i n the name of the cOJJntnt3 economy) and
his eviction 8S highly irrational or even mercenary.
Mi ner ORi nions on the eviction (desalojQl
Of 30 to 50 persons i ntervie\'/ed (range dependent on 'w'hat you count as an i ntervie . . .'), \y'e
met onl y one 'w'no expressed an opi nion other than the follo'w'i ng. I respect tne laW', and if the
Rural Guard (Guardia Rural) Gomes and tells me that I have to leave) I \\1111 do so. There are a
number ofsigniftcant ob~ervations related to this:
1. No pe r$O neve r s ubstit uted the wo rds Gus rda pe rQ ues (Pe r k Ra nge rs) fo r the wo rds. Ci vi 1
Guards .. We \v'ere len vith the disti net impression that most of the mi ners had no idea 'w'hat the
Park Rangers 'w'ere (other than they 'ylere peop1e 'w'ho 'w'orked for the Park and could confiscate a
mi ni ng .purrip
or a game ani mal) or ho'W thei r pO'v,lers relate to those of the Rural Guard.
2. The above sentence 'Was generall y follo\v'ed somevhere in the i ntervie'. . by a guarded or
boldly stated ~omment that 'w'lthin 1-2 'w'eeks) the gold miner 'w'ould be back in the Park) mining
agai n (i n several cases of bravado) under cover of night if need be).
3. No person volunteered any indication that he understood that along 'ylith the eviction 'w'ould
corne obliteration of the house sites) mi ne 'w'orki ngs) tunnels and other complements to survival
in the forest.
4. Until 'w'e met several partiei pants of the Rio Claro shootout on the last morni ng of the last
day, 'yle never met ~omeone 'w'ho would edmit to hevi ng been told to leave the ·Perk by either 8
Park Ranger or any other person of authority. On the other hand, beginning 'w'ith Director Ma'ha
Elena) on various occasions select groups of miners were emphatically told that 'w'hat they 'w'ere
do; ng was illegal as part of attempted negotiations 'w'ith them. HO'y/ever) all mi ners 'w'e met had
come tD an understandi ng that by the letter of the la'w' they 'w'ere illegal and that it 'y/ould be legal
for the Rural Guard to evict them.
5. No one mentioned the. problem of ho'w' they 'w'ould get their large amount of heavy (and ..
sometimes'-expensive) mining gear out of the site 'w'hen told to leave, or even ffthey would plan
to take i·t clong or hide it in the fore~t.
6. All intervie'w'ees 'w'ere asked point blank if they kne'w' that they 'w'ere mining in the Park
and 'w'here the Park boundaries 'w'ere. All said yes and all poi nted correctl y to the locations of the
Park boundaries, except for two 'w'ho thought the'J 'llere in the Park but 'w'ere outside .
. 7. Per.r18ps the saddest commentary expressed during the entire inspection tour) and it 'w'as
ex pressed by t'w'O di ffe re nt i nte rvi e'w'ees 'w'as t hat of the pe rso n 'w'IIO $8i d) yes) I \h1ill 1eave .tt told
to do so) but if I come back to find tMt my gold mine is being 'w'orked by other miners, : \'1'111 no
longer remai n pacific in mlJ attitude. This opi nion 'w'as li ke\lIise expressed as a much applauded·
plea by a gold miner at t~he public meeting in Puerto Jimenez, and is reflected in the 'Widespread.
belief that the eviction 13 so thatthe companies can then mine Hie Park.
The cisti net i mpre~~ion that '..Ie 'w'ere left 'w'ith 'w'a~ tMt of a motorist i11eg::sll y D~rkeij by a
yellow curb v/hile waiting for his wife in a nearby bank, and 'waiting for the traffic cop to come
along and tell him to move on. The Corcovado miner kr!O\'/3 he i3 breaking the 18'vi .• doe3 not :<:iee
afllJ obvious harm he is dOl fig, has not been fi rml y told to move on, hopes that the 18\'; 'v/ill
change (or si mpl y remai n dormant) , and i 0 the meantime. knows that he i~ doi og $(Imethi og tha(
is doing someone (including himse1f)some good. It is Quite simply the traged~ of the commons
all over agai n, \'liih the commons oc.cupied by a number of ki nds of sheep, the commons margi ns
veryi ng ; n location and val ue dependi ng on 'vlho you ask, and onl y certai n members of the village
kno\.;i ng of the other uses of the commons.
Everythi ng that I have seen about Costa Rican rural peoples, as well as what 'vie saw 'wit hi n
the Park, suggests that the vest majo'rity of the gold mi ners 'vIithi n the Park ere accuratel y
characterized blJ the above comments. Ho\.;ever, it is equally evident that there will tIe a fe\\"
that will be substantiall y less coopera~ive. We met one and most every person who has traveled
i n Co rcovado has met at 1east 0 ne pe rso n who states fi r m1y that "t he y" wi 11 not tal~e hi m 0 ut of
here without cutti ng hi minto little pieces. Agai n, there are a number of facets of such people
. and statements that are relevant to the eviction.
1. It is vi rtuall y i mpossi bleto.tell ho\·/ much of such a statement is si mpl y bravado
consciously or subconsciously designed to delay yet furthEir the eviction, a delay that has been
IJ 01 reody promoted by the
feor thot the
out~ide Co~to
Ricon 'World
of the
m; ners in the Park (to say noth; ng of thel r fear ofthe supposed1 y "lawless types" that populate
the peninsula).
2. The person maKing such a statement has nothing to lose by making such a statement, but
much to gai n both in creati ng fear and gai ni ng applause (even if silent) from undecided
3. Where such a person is genui nel y .feehng what he expresses, the resol ution to stand by
such opi nions seems to be relativel rj proportioria1 to the size ontle cro'v/d of supporters. If the
eviction occurs, such i ndividu8h·ore li kel y to fi nd themselves hevi ng to stend for thei r opi nions
largely without the support of neighbors (unless the eviction program has not taken the
appropriate steps for rapid removal of the evicte~ mi'ners from sites of concentration).
4. Costa Ricans feeli ng particularil y belligerent are nevertheless highl y suscepti ble to
bei ng argued \tIith, and both thei r general feeli ng of respect for la'v/s and logic tends to uilderrni ne
thei r belligerent feell ngs.
5. The mi ners in general, and especiall y the regular rfli ners who have survived several
years of this life are Quite durable people. Ad; reet confrontation is not onl y 11 kel y to meet a
somevhat prideful person, but a person 'vIho is accustomed to contest.'vIith Hie eiements.
psysa:ologica1 \Iarfare, espec;all y of the gentle and reason; ng sort, ha3 a mual
chance of
ooes standard "police-style" direct confrontation laced 'with contempt for "druni;en
and immoral types" ('Witness the Apri11984 Rfo Claro shootout bet'v/een the Rural Guards/Park
Guards and gold mi rrers).
In discussions of the situation in San Jose, Hie commis~:lc:n
fairllJ fr-equently been
confronted 'w'ith the spectre oflabororganizers or si milar mani pulators of 'Work; ng people
becomi ng involved in formi ng resistance among the mi ners to the eviction. V'lhile not meani og to
deny the possi blHy, 'vie 'vlere struck by the total ab~;ence of even the slightest flavor of such
.organizers·; n the speech, behev;or and attitudes of the mi rrers that 'ole tal ked ·with. The public:
"meeti og i 0 Puerto Ji meoez 'Was the perfect plaee for aloeal" organizer to have made either a
sur"reptitious effort or even to have appeared on behalf of the mi ners. Agai n. there 'w'as no trace
, of such flctivities either; 0 the form of the meet; og or the "people s~,eak; ng fit it.
The Rublic meeti ng in Puerto Ji rnenez
On 24June aM earlier, via several
'We :3nnounced to the Puerto Jimenez area
that on the nioht of 27 June 'We 'w'ould hold a meetino for anll i ntere~:ted persons. 'V'lethen spent
. . . .
25- 27 ,June explori ng a portion of the Park that
heavil y occupied by gold mi ners and tal ki ng
to them. We i nHiall y hoped that the public meeti ng -',I/ould be an opportunity to ans\\,'e r questions
as well as to obtai n opi nlons, but it was i mmediatel y obvious that it 'Would be much more
profitable to us and to the loe-al partici pants if 'We restricted the activity to heari ng. cpi nions.
Furthermore as an outside commission, 'We \v'ere certai nl y not ina position to provide.
euthoritative answers to the Questions of most importance to the miners. The
'Wes held
in a dance hall in the center ofto'Wn, and 'We used the dance band microphones and loudspeakers.
We opened the meeting at 8:30 pm (and closed it at 10:30 pm) with the firm statement triM
'y/e 'Were there to hear thei r opi nions and would not attempt to ansver thei r questior:s. argue
'w·ith them (lr offer solutions. 'InitialllJ, this disclaimer 'ylas not believed blJ the audience. Hie
reader of this report should recan that the purpose of the meeti ng vas to gai nan understandi ng
of the 'What the miners think or \. .·ant the outside 'World to think, rather than to obtai.n facts about
the mi ners or other aspects af the si~uation. Janzen opened 'w'ith the statement that 'We \v'ished to
specifically hear thei r commentary on the follo'w'i ng Que~tions:
What is the impact of the mi nen on the biology of the Park?
b. Who are the mi ners) and 'what is your opi nlon of how many are there of you?
c. What is your attitude about the eviction?
d. What can you tell us about hO\vto avoid your return to the Park after the eV1ction?
In co nt rast to t he co nve rsati 0 ns t hat we held wit h mi ne rs i n the Pa r k bot h befo re and afte r
. this meeti ng, the members of the audience that were 'Willi ng to speak did not attempt to· reP.1 Yto
the above Questions but rather each delivered a small oration that 'Was often both dogm~tic and
While most of the orations 'w'ere commentaries on some aspect of the situation,
several were rather explicit attacks on the Park, ttll:~ Park's personnel in general, or n,e
National Park Service. This resulted in the conepicuousl y pai nful situation that the Park
Di rec.tor, as a member of the commissi~~, was forced to have this thrown at hi m without bei ng
allowed to reply. Equally, our three accompai,yir:g Park Rangers had to suffer the same
indignity. HO'w'ever, all four of them weathered the event with excellent composure, and
displayed the kind of measured response that is going to be both difficult and mandatory in the
dags to come 'w'hen 'Working in the community around the Park.
Y·/ho \,·tere the speokers? Three speakers were clearly men \. . ho are active end protoobllJ
. tu11-tl me mMern gOla ml ners (the actua11ocatlOn or thel r ml ne~ was not 91vert). The rerr:ai ni ng
11 speakers ranged from 2 unabashed opportunists 'Who 'would cledrllJ enjoy a centra', political
role representing the miners, to 2 long-term (3D-years plus) residents of the southern Dsa
Pen; nSlJla. The latter had undoubtedl y been seriou$ gold mi nen at one ti me in thei r careers and
identified themselves as "old ti me gold mi ners". Ho\'/ever both are major property O"i/ners
outside of the Park and neither of them had the call uses and hardnesses 'w'e 'w'itnessed among the
gold mi ners in the field. Who 'vlas the audience? Of the approxi matel\) 200 men, women and
Children, there 'w'ere at least 40 men that had the physical appearance of hardened field ':lorkers.
Howeve r, it is i mpossi bIe to know how ma ny we re m; ne rs, and'i f m; ne rs., how ma ny we re
mi ners in the Park. Strong applause followed each oration, and neither the speakers or the
audience displayed the cal m thoughtful ness that we encountered among mi ners in the Park.
Below we paraphrase the key statements made by the speakers and in the approxi mate order
in which they appeared. The appropriate replies to most of them are oDvious, and the members
of the Park Service desli ng with both the mi ners and the community around the Park at the ti me
of the eviction and i mmediatel Y'after must be welll.8rmed with these replies. Agai n, as
mentioned earlier, the goal is not to win in open debate, but rather to' place the antagonist in a
position 'w'here his/her o'w'n beliefs lead to (perhaps begrudgi ng) ackno'w'ledgment of the.
legiti macy of the Park and its potential val ue to the community.
1. The destruction by gold mining is done by the mining companies, not by the individual
miners (coligallero$); the gold miners do not hunt.
2. What exactly is Corcovado National ParK, and 'w'hat are its objectives?
3. The mi ners 'Would be happy to cooperate 'With the Park if they are not thro'Wnout of it.
4. Destruction (landslides, erosion) is a natural process, and what they are doi ng is r.o
5. Mi ni ng has little effect on erosion .
6. Mi ners produc'ed more gold lai~ year than did the companies.
7. The miners would 'Welcome information on environmental education and
ho'W to behave
in the Park.
8. Can 'we have written information on what 'Would be our respo-nsi bilities i n·the Park?
9. Gold mi ners do not destroy; if they cut trees, they also plant trees- cacao avocados,
'10. '1./ ha·t do we (t hose i n favo r of the Pa r k) wa nt to see prese rved in the Pa r·k?
11. Bya person 'w'ho identified i!i-meself
as not a mi ner: .\ am very upset 'w'i.fh
the aold
- mi ni nocompanies because tMy are the ones 'w'ho do the da~age, not the mi ners ..
12. Iftrt';:'J are asked to leave, they won't do it; 'What 'Would the government do 'With them?
13. Aski ng the mi ners to leave will kin commerce and many other busi nesses; "If gold dies,
to'wns such as this one wi1l.die~.
14. What alternatives to rni ni ng in the Pork does the government offer?
',,:c:. nave
no other jobs than to be gold miners.
16. Mining 1a''I/3 are unfair because the gold miners have to pay taxes.
17. If the gold mi ners have to leave please do not let the gold mi ni ng companies take over.
18. If mi ni ng is stopped, the area . . . .m have-to be designated an "area of national emergency". '
19. The gold mi ners were here before the Park and the Park \'/'83 i mp03ed on them.; the
farmers \y"ere compensated but the mi ners \y'ere not. When is the government goi ng to
look after the gold mi ners, to pay the gold mi ners?
20. The people \'lho have been thro . . . . n out of the Park have been treated unfai rl y - they "lere
thro . . . . n in jail, for example.
21. Can the Park: Service provide information on ho. . . . to behave in the Park and evidence that
. . . .e are actually doing damage (and . . . .e say . . . . e are not doing damage).
22. The Park Servi.ce must organize meeti ngs . . . .ith the mi ners as a . . . . hole; the mi ners produce
a lot of benefit for the country, and the mi ners mai ntai n that they are responsi ble for the
integrity of the community.
23. The Park Service should exp1ei n exactl y . . . . hat is goi ng on.
Al most all persons . . . . ho spoke mentioned that nobody disagrees . . . . ith the idea of a Park.: they
clearl y . . . . anted to convey the impression that everybody li kes the Park as long as they are not
asked to leave; numerous speakers stated that they want to be part of the Park.
In considering the difference bet . . . .een these statements and . . . . hat the gold miners in the Park;'
say, it is important to bear in mind that it is hard for a gold miner to say he is doing nothing
. . . . hen he i3 3tandi ng next to
man- made land3lide into a small stream. Li ke\y'ise, . . . . hen a gold
mi ner has just told you that he left his job as an accountant in San Jose to become a hard rock
tunnel miner and \.;as reading e 4cm thick philosophical treatise \.ihen you arrived, it is hard
for hi m to argue that' a) he is savi ng the national economy and b) t~af he has no other
possibilities of employment.
If the api nions expressed in the public meeti ng in Puerto Ji.menez can. be taken a~
representative of those of the commercial establishment and the community surroundi ng the
ParK, then the community clearly favors continuing gold mining in the ParK, is of the opinion
that the miners do little or no damage in the Park, and believes that the gold that they produce
far out . . . . eig~ls any val ue that the Park may have either for the local community or the country at
large. There is also a clear senti ment that the Osa Peni nsula hilS been quite forgotten about in
the overall development plans of the country (and therefo.re the gold'is their only salvation);
hO'w'ever, 'We note that from the various plans and programs . . . .e heard about in the 1 Jul y meeti ng
in San Jose, the Osa Peni fl3ula is no longer forgotten and is the e.x pli cit. subject of concern of
M:NEPLAN, IDA, the Ministry of ~1ines and Energid, etc. This is also e;'/idenced by the ne . . . . l ld
constructed high'w'ay from the interamericana to the RincO'n-Puerto Jimenez fired.
Alternatives to eviction
It is the collective (and unanimous) opinion of this commission that there is no alternati"le t(l,
total eviction of the gold mi ners from Corcovado National Park. Ho'w' its effects can be
ameliorated and over 'w'hat ti me scale the mi ners should be evicted constitutes a large part of the
subject of.t~is report. The reasons for our belief i n eviction as the onl y option are 5i mpl y that
1. kno'w'ingl y or otherW'ise., the gold mi ni ng operations are destroyi ng and mai nta; ni ng; n a
destroyed condition 8 major portion of the Park's ecosystems over atrout one thi rd of the area of
the Park, .
2. they are pr~ent through a history of governmental i nection in the face of the commonplace
human desire to harvest a resource rather than through any particular humanitarian need that
transcends th.e value to Costa Rica of its National Park System,
3. thei r presence le9a11 y and philosophicall y is clearl y agai nst various laws, laW's that intend
to protect the long term rights of 8 very large number of people agai nst the individual resource
harvest deSires of 8 small number of people, and
4. whi.1e the eviction vill undoubtedl y cause substantial griefto some people, a basic human
pri nci ple is that 'When a robbery is bei ng committed, you stop it fi rst, and then you mayor may
not \vorry about rehabilitation of the robber.
An intermediate plans that 'We can thi nk of do not solve the damage to the Park, do not
eli mi nate the precedent set by allo'w'i ng destructive harvest of a National Park, and do not ans'Wer
the legal/moral poi nt of avoidi ng destruction of a system set aside for perpetuity. In the letters
from concerned Park Rangers and other thinkers on the problems, resistance to miner evicti·on .
re peatedl y ta kes t'Wo poi nts. as its mo ra1 base: t hat so me of the mi ne rs are need y and that the .
mi ners do .little or no harm to the Park. It is our opi nion that the question of need is no more
relevant than it is v/hen someone ~teals your 'w'allet,
your cattle or robs your bank .. It is
also very stri ki ng that those 'who plead need for the mi ners tend to place it next to a page on
a long list of disc!'"i mi nati ng traits makes it clear that onl y the morall y upstandi ng
middle-aged family men 'With large families qualify for the category of "need'J"
report to
Ugalde bya· Park Ranger, Sr. Manuel Solis, May 1985). As for the question of damage to the
Park, one has to be both una'w'are of the integrative aspects of tropical ecosystems and
disi nterested in aquatic slJsterns to cIai m no damage by th~ mi ners.
The intermediate plan to 'whic~1 ''lIe gave the greatest amount of attention 'Was in abruptly
(;losi ng the Park and then allowi rig all offici all y registered mi ners to conti nue 'w'orki ng until
they Ylished to abandon their mine site. but not to permit Hlem to change location~. This was·
abandoned on Hie basis that Hie patrolli ng effort 'w'ould De erlUrmous arlo proD;)Dl y i neffect;ve it .
'w'ould not.stop the sediment input into the streams for years to come, and amounts to setting up a
National Pat-k a~ a device for absorbi ng the unemployed at a very sUbstantial cost to the Park. It
also sets a very dangerous precedent for the i mi nent poachi ng of ti mber and ",lhatever other
harvestable re80urces a Costa Rican park is found to contei n. for those 'who are thi nki ng of sucr;
a plan of registered and controlled mi ni ng . and especiall y given some success in controlli ng
placer miners in US. National Parks or t'Jational forests, it must be remembered that in
Corcovedo no mi ne is registered, there are no. topographic surveys or maps on ~/hich they could
be registered, and.the life blood of this kind of mining is being able to meve as CIne
'w'orking a feW' days here and a fe\y W'eeks there, until some local pocket of placer go1d gives out
or a storm buries you'r works under stream- born ~ii t. iYe may also add that checki ng the
permits and mi ni ng sites of 10- 20 mi ners would be a full days \York that 'vIeuld have to be
re peated an a dail y basi s.
We also discussed the possi bility of compensati ng the mi ners in the Park for thei r holdi ngs,
under the same spi rit that a farmer is compensated (fer havi ng cut dO'w'n the trees and planted
pasture) etc.). HO\v'ever . if onl y those in the Park at a surprise instant are compensated, those
'vIho happen to be out en leave are very unfai rl y treated. There is also no vlay to compensate
onl y those W'ho W'ere mi ni ng in the neW' part of the Park at the ti me of the amplification (1980) ,
they are not known (it i~ tempting to ~u9gest that the true "old time"
in the
origi nal Park area could becempensated if still there, but in fact there \v'ere mor-e medern type
mi ners 'w'orki ng in the Los Chiles area as earl y as 1978 - Janzen slept in thei r
there is advance warni ng, there 'llill be a major rush into the Park in order to c181 m o'w'nershi p
to this· or that hole in t he riverbed. Si nee a mi ne base price might be 10 ,000 to. 15,000 co. lanes
($200 as 8 round figure}, a ~i ngle sum cempensatien of this amount for perhaps 1000 mi ners
($200 ,000) might not be considered. as outrageeus if it bought total peace, but it 'vIould not.
Furthermore, the pe.tential denors in the international community are likely to be much less
in ~eeing such 0 ~um go to bail out a four-year piece ofinectivity/incompetence than
to a major land purchase of pristi ne rai nforest elseylhere in the ceuntry, er to serious
preventative mai ntenarice to avoid this ki nd of situation for any national park in Costa Rica. Any
statement that the gold miners v/111 be compensated for their hcldings is simply false. Within
the country there has never been any intention or interest in such compensation for miners (in
contrast to the generall y approved concept of compensation for the fermers). Compensation 'wes
never mentiened to ue by the
in Hie ParI:,
is one of the first ttlings mentioned
Several reports rlave suggested that HIt: eviction be done in etages,.rather than as one
operation. HO·w'e·,/er, Hie attempt to clear one sector v/hile leavi ng others open to rnlni ng (to
later cleared) , si mpl'J ano'w'~ mi nE:rs to. move from one side of the Park to anotrler as Hley
attempt to stay one step ahead of the eviction. Second} such'8 plan \l/ill greatly lengthen Hie
amount of time that the Civil
will have to stay in the Park and that the entire Park
Service will have to remain in a state of emergency. Third, the only thing that recommends it is
that it makes the unpleasant task of eviction seem a littleJurther away. It certai nly \01111 not ;
molify the mi ners or make them any more i ncli ned to be cooperative 'with either the Park or the
concept of a trul ~ preserved national park.
\Alhile several abortive attempts have been made to evict (desalojar} el desalojo) the miners
from the Park in the past several years, and 'While the subject has been the objeCt of much
debate \Y'ithi n the National Park Service for at least 5 years, onl yin the past year' has an
organized plan developed for an eviction of the mi ners {the fi rst draft 'vias b:,; the previous Park
Director} German Haug; the current plant 'yl8S developed by Director Juan Carlos Romero in
conj unction 'tlith an i n- house committee; prior to this., Di rector Maria Elena Mora concentrated
on negotiations and discussions \\/ith the mi ners at the ti me of and i mmediatel y follo\\/i ng the
amplification of the Park). As presentl y conceived, the plan consists of about 30- 40 Park
Rangers worki ng together with 200 members of the Rural Guard (Guardia Rural) and sweeping
through the Park from rouqhl y the area of a 5i rena- Los Patos axis up the various drai nages and
removi ng everyone encountered, by force if necessary (hopefull y not). This eviction is to be
preceeded by about a tv/o week warning} in order to allow the miners to leave voluntarily. Once
the Park is free of mi ners} combi ned forces of Park Rangers and the Rural Guard \Y'ould agai n
through the Park, destroying houses and mine workings. An ever-diminishing number of
Civil Guards "lould remai n in the Park for the follo'Wi ng 1- 3 months, duri ng \I,'hich fai rl y
intensive patrolli ng 'w'il1 occur so as to locate returni ng and newl y i nvadi ng mi ners and remove·
them. Fi noll y .. the eviction is to be followed by greetl y increased "presence" of the Park Guards
along the eastern and southern Park boundaries (the interface 'With much of the rest of heavily"
occupied Osa Peni nsula) and some sort of envi ronmental education program ai med at the
community outside of the ParK. Had this plan been followed} the warni ng to leave would have
been given about 1.June 1985 (preliminary 'Warnings oftrle pending event 'vIere given in
April- May 1985) } but this date was postponed in order to obtai n the .present report.
. At the time oftM inspection tour, numerous miners had a1read.y heard of some form of the
plan and seemed psychologicall y ready to be told to leave. Our brief overflight of the Park was
. interpreted by some a3 the first steps and they had already removed their pumps from inside the
Park, and asked us if it "yas then alright to re-enter the Park and continue 'w'ork. Uke'Wise at .
the ti me of our inspection tour, about the onl y details seemi ng1 yin the 'w'ay orcarryi ng out the
pJan was uncertainty as to the amount and duration of the help to be given by the Rural Guard .
. Mte r ha;,/i ng see n t he sit uati 0 n, 1iste ned to a11 pa rti es di sc uss the ev; cti 0 n, and tho ug ht abo ut
the capabilities of the Costa Rlcan Park Service and Rural
Guard~ ~nd
taking into account that ''tie
are some 8 months before toe Presidential election} it is the considered opi nion of Hlis
commi3sion th3t the Nation31 Park Service in general and Corcovado National Park specificall y
is not at this i nstent prepared for tr!e eviction. However, it a1s.0 appe.ars to us that much of what
yet needs to be done cc'u1d be done in 1-2 months, or if not, ",/ould require several years to carry
out. in oUier 'w'ords} d short d.::lay is highly desirable in our opinion.' Corcovodo National ParK}
the Costa Rican National Park Service and conservation biology in Costa Rica hang in the balance.
8·e10\. . we di~cu~s the eviction in detail . and make numerou~ sugge~tion~ with re~pect to it.
Many of these suggestions are al ready floati ng in the sea of opi nions 'ylithi n the Park Service, a~d
some have been specificall y recommended by internal W'orki ng committees asigned to the
problem. HO\'I'ever, there has
be~1I 110
oetailed anal ysis of the problemar realistic detailed
operations plan ever dra\y'n up. It is our hope that our commentartJ here and this report in
general W'ill serve as a catal yst for such anal ysis and such an operations plan, now.
Legality. There is abundant legal basis for eviction of Hie gold mi ners .frona Corcovado
National Park. These have been summarized b"y the Park Service legal counsel (Ana t1aria Tato}
letter, 24 ,.June 1985) and 'we paraphrase them bel 0,",1:
1. Artic:le 100 of LaW' 4465 establishes the norm that anlJ person who invades a national park
or biological reserve will be sentenced to 6- 24 months in prison or fi ned for 15-100 da.ys (i n
Costa Rica, certain prison sentences can be exchanged for a set fine for each day).
2. Article 3 of paragraph 2 of La'w' 3763 (ratification of an international treaty for the
protection of Nev World fauna, flora and natural beauty) prohi bits the destruction of a notional
3. LO'h' 6794 (Augu!lt 1982) rotiiie~ Executive Decree No. 5357-A!l0 o~ to include in
artic1elO the prohi bition of the removal of rOCKS and sand from Corcol/ado National Park.
4. Section 7 of Article 8 of LaW' 6084 (24August 1977) prohibits the collection or
extraction of rocks,
fossils or any other geological product from any Costa Rican
national park; \. . hen Hie amplification of the Park occurred on lS February, 1980 (Executive
Order 11148-A)} the decree explicitl!) states that the area under the am~llification is covered by
the same regulations' as W'as the orig1 nal Park area.
The decree al.30 state~ clearl y that anyone
mi ning on the ParI: boundaries must live outside of the Park, and stop thei r activities if they
i nfr; nge on the normal mlli ntenence of the Perk.
5. Paragraph 2 of Article 8 of the Mining Code (LaW' 6797 of 40ctob.er 1982) prohibits
mi ni ng exploitation in areas declared notional parks or biological reserves. This laW' also
details prison sentences and fines for
\. . ith relevant government officials. Corcovado National park and the general
surrounding commur:ity are under the jurisdiction of the.officialdom of Go1fito (there is a 6-7
person Rural Guard
in Puerto Jimenez, but it ans'vIers to Golfito). At the l~ast} the
senator judges, alcaldes and munici pal president of the districts of Golfito and. the Peni nsula de
03a must be not on1 y notified of all the details 'well in advance, but t~iel r opinions and advj;~e
the eviction is necessary. Not only 'y,/i11 these persons be· di reetl y involved in ruli ngs and
opinions on events occurring during the evi~tion} but their ~Upp0t-t is essential during the
subsequent attempts to mai ntai n t~le Park free (If g(ll~: mi :::'i-;:: throu;Jh active presence and
pat ro 1li og. TI) date oooe of these peo p1e have bee 0 approac hed que ri ed 0 r ot he r'Wi-se i ofo r med ;
and advised di reetl y of the' situation, though some informal thought has been given to the idea of
bringing some of them to the Park to see the situation.
The officer(s) in charge of the Rural Guard is a special csse, si oce his assistance is an
obvtous requi rement for a successful eviction and period immediatel yfollo\·. .i ng. Recognizi og the
povierful i mportenee of the chai n of command in police and military affai rs it is obvious11,1
, important that hi~ superiors in San Jo~e are \yell infcrm~d end i~ full agreement 'With all major
aspects of the opet-ation. While such arrangements have apparentl ybeen made 'With some of the
concerned, other vital arranqements
have yet to be made.. Astart has occurred 'w'ith a
visit to the problem area by several officers of the Rural Guard from San I..lo:::e in late I..lune, but
given the potential for fragmentation of chai ns of command, much more must be done.
As 'Will become evident belo'W in the discussion of long-term maintenance of HIe ParK free
from human influence, many other government agencies ar~ involved and must be kept informed
from these .earl 1,1 days on'w'ard (e.g., the Banco Central, the. I nstituto de Desarol1o Agrario, the
Direccion Forestal, CATlE, the Ministry of Energy end Mines, the Ministry of Public SecuritlJ.:
the National Parks Foundation, all other branches of the Ministry of Agriculture and LivestOCk,
the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, the Un;versidad tstat.:sl a
Distancia,· key members of both of the large political parties, perti nent commercial
enterprisese, etc.). Many of these agencies have personnel and policies of enormous value to the
Park Service in general and to this operation specificiall y; it is clea~ that conservation in Costa
Rica has corne about through many hel pi ng hands, and this is certai nl y a ti me .to maxi mize the
possi bilities for hel p from outside the Park Service. Lack oJ i nformaticin flo'W among relevant
and interested part.ies 'Will clearl y impede the operation. furthermore, secrecy in this
operation is not ·needed or desired; the more accurate information is publically available, the
harder it '",111 be to startannoyi n9 rumors .
. Advance I,Y'arni ng to the mi ners and surroundi ng community. While it i3 clear that the
mi ners must be advised VIe 11 in advance of the eviction date, so as to mi oi mize t he flU mber of
conflicts bet'w'een them and the Park and Civil Guards, this advance \·,Iarni ng also introduces a
number of complications that must be nullified but·it is al~o part of the preparation time for the
evi cti 0 rr.
1. A rumor is Circulating tr!at merchants in the P!lerto Jimenez area are planning a truck
block8de of HIe $1 ngie rOod from the I nteramerican Higri'way (the outside 'w'orld) to Puerto
Jimenez .. \I'lhile such a blockade \v'ould be highly visible and subject the persons involved to
di rect gove r nme nta1 acb 0 n, b the gove r nme nt \h,i11 i ng to ta ke e'JC h a~:ti 0 n? 0n t he act ual
the eviction, even a fe"h' dalJs of road
d8te~ Of
could easil y di:::rupt tile enti re operation 8f"ldcreate
an incident that might make an onl ymildl y enthusiastic officer (if the Rural Gusrd hack out
enti rel y.
2. With advance W'arni ng, local merchants could do much to cause there to be \>; rtu811 y no
vehicular or horse transport for the mi ners leavi ng the area. The subsequent boWi ng up of both
. mi ner5 and opportunistic onlOOKers from the community in Puerto Ji menez could easil y lead to.
cro\o/d 5i zes and attit udes ve r yco nd uci ve to ri oti ng 0 r se mi - 0 rga ni zed co nf ro ntati 0 ns wit h t fie
Park Guards and Civil Guards. This situation not onl y emphasizes the importance of i nsuri ng
transport out of the area, but in setti ng up temporary sleepi ng shelters a goodl y distance from
Puerto Ji menez (can the Red Cross 'be useful in this context)? I n addition to maki ng a ve~y
difficult situation at the ti me, this is hardl y the way to begi n along term i nt~ratibh of
Co rcovado Nati 0 nal Pa r k \\Iit hthe mi nds and eco no mi cs of t he co mmunit IJ of HIe Osa Pe ni flS u18.
3. The Rural Guard is tal kl ng seriousl y of plac.i ng police checkpoi nts at the traditional areas
of exit from the Park, and checki ng the identifications of all those leavi ng the Park .. YO/hHe 'w'e
can understand thei r interest in this side- benefit to them . we feel that it 'Would be inadvisable.
V'lith the advance warni ng, 'anyone ""ith 8 trul y Que~tionable record will have long si nee left the
Park, and such checkpoi nts \>/i11 be ineffective yet be a severe nuisance that \>/i11 si roDl Yi ncrea~e
even further the resentment by the mi ners. This plan must be abandoned in favor of gentle,
friendly and cooperative evictlOn of.the miners. The last thing the Park needs is to have the
evictio n of the mi ners be viewed by the pop ulace 8~ a whole as si mpl y an elaborate excuse to
check the papers of a large body of relativel y independent people,
4. Duri ng the period of advance warni ng, the same offers of transport to distant parts of
Costa Rica for the miners (see beloW') mUst be made and be avaf1able without fail. Tnjck or bus
transport must be available every seven~l deys to move persons to central poi nts such as Golfito,
Pal mar, Sierpe, Buenos Ai res, San Isidro'and San Jose. Such transport must leave at le;:13t
from Dos Brazos, Agujas, and the junction of the RiO 'Ri ncon and R(o Pavon (the latter site \Y'm
require about 1 day of bulldozer. "dork to .cJean up the road so that a large truck can
poi nt); it 1s not reasonable to expec"t a rrriner to transport several hundred kilos of mi.ni ng gear
and personal
from ttlE: Perk boundarlJ to Puerto Jimenez, in order to use tile regular
transport. Li ke\1ise, \v'here Hie terr8~ n permits, packhorses s~:ould be made available to aid; n
removal of mining equipment and personal belcnginqs. Mditior.allIJ, storage faci1iti~ must
arranged \>/hereby a penon canleave.his personal gear 'While making return trips 'w'ithout fear
of it bei ng stolen. It \%uld li ke1i/jse
large amount;. of used i rrig;jtion
~ubi fig
ven; functio~al to con\.'i nce some rnercri8i,t 'v/tiO cou1d
to purerld::;e 'w'ilat tr,e rni ners rl8Ve at a lCI'w'HE-.d price (se,:;
belo\v') ;.the same applies to shovels and other tools. V·/hile·such help in transport, might appear
to be purely humanitarian, in fact it is necessary to minimize excuses for failing to leave the
duri ng the pre-eviction period and in maxi mizi ng the difficulty (If returni ng. Every
vol untary exit to & distant poi nt is (lne less potential conflict and one le~;s persorl"'w'ho can be
recruited by someone ",rho "fishes to be difficult.
S. The concept (If advance \\··arni ng is i rre:;oncilably tied up \v·ith Hie Question (If compen~ation
for mines. The mi ners are payi ng a price for bei ng relativellJ mobile. If each mi net" had a
)ong-term location, as did the farm o'w'ners, then compensation could be fai rol y re1iabl y assigned,
but it 'w'ould be virtually impossible to do anything but make an instantaneous s'w'eep throqh the.
Park and compensate those at a site at the moment. The i mpossi bility and unfei roess of this i$
obvious. If there is to be any compensation, it cannot be done through some ki nd of on the spot.
payment or credit system to individuals, or there \Y·m be 8 mass migration into the Park to ta;.::e
advantage of the offer.·1 nstead, it is our opi nion that any compensation should be in the form of
generalized services that benefit an those that 'w'i~;h to take advantage (:f them (e.g., hoar;:':'~iV;-! C!~t
of and fj'vlay from the Park, specific efforts to reloGate specific i naividuals such as "old ti me
mi ner~;~' efforts to aid rapid economic development of the general area, community education,. ,
and other services to be discussed beloli/.).
We cannot even eee a practical 'w'ay to identify miners 8S "refugee$ from Corcovado", therebt,:
giving them, for example, priority in hiring in forestry development sCllemes planned for HIe
area. If identification tags (carnets) are given to those that leave voluntarily, then tnere 'w'i~l
be a mass migration to get into the Park in order to flee from the Park and obtai n a refugee tag.
If identification tags are given just to.those that have to be forcibly evicted, then one is
offering inducement to stay in the Park until forcibly removed, and re'v/arding the most
recalcitrant of tire mi ners as 'w'en.
6. It is evident that the period of advance 'w'arni ng is go; ng to be a period of; ntense noise and ..
argume.nt from .the mi ner~ and even more so from the community in general. This is 8 ti me .
'w'rlen;.irrespective of how' unpleasant for the Park service, its best and gentlest interactors \\/ith
members of the community must be conti nuousl y aVailable in the community and the Park to
8n3\'fer questions and talk to individuals and group'3 . The Questions 'w'illbe highly repetitive,
aggressi . . . e, and de~;igned to generate fear and confusion. The Questioners "/ill never appear to
give in. Needless to say., the real audience is the hsteners to ttle side; al most i nveriat,l y ttle
intensive and aggressive questioners 'v/ill be trrose ttlat are going to lose something otirer than a
gold mine in the ParI:; they
",m be me rcrlants, lendo'y,lners, po~iticians-to-be, etc. If there b·
ever a.time for saturation presence of the Park. Service in the southern and central portion of
is it. Winning t~l~ hearb and mines, or at least 'w'i nni fig the moderate
the Osa
Penin3u~a, thi~,
of re1dtivel y poor peoples from 'w'tlom one b iaki ng jobs and am,jng 'w;h0m one i:~
increasing competitive pt-essures .. is no easy task and not sorr::::thir.g to be left to a fe"iI
vol unteers on vacation leave from the Park Service office i r San jose \,\,'hile it is very pleasant
to see Ulat certain individu;~1s \\Iithin the Park Service
sa volunteered, a much greater
effort is needed.
7. The advance \l'arni ng period, as ","ell as all available ti me at present before it., must be a
peried of} ntense'physical activity so 8S to dramaticall y increase the presence of the Park on the
land it holds. Yes, there are riverses boundaries and 'vihere not, there are 5 m \vide some'vlhat
overgro'w'n lanes cut through the forest along the boundaries. Yes . every mi ner kno'w's 'w'here the
Park boundary is in the area 'where he 'w'orks (although 'w'e encountered t'w'O mi ners outside of
the Park who thou9ht they 'Were i n~ide). But no, the Park does not present itself as a disti nctive
entity, 8S \llell o'w'ned and distinctive as any large private farm. For exanip1e, there is nct a
single identification sign on the boundaries of the Park (except for a fe\ll artsy rustic signs on
the beach). There are no roadsigns or other ki nds of,large graphic signs on the roads
approaching the Park, roads traversed by virtually every gold miner ifI the Park.
are no
elaborating signs at its boundaries about 'w'hat cannot be done in a Park end\vhat is the functior,
of a Park. There are no trail markers or trail mao ~;9ns.
~ IlItiPS
are for s3le of the
its trail systems. There are no propagandizi ng signs about the Park on any commercial
establishment in the enti re community surround; ng the Park. There has never been a public:
lecture, slide sho\'! or series of any other kind of presentation ever given about Hie
to Hie
community around the Pad:. The Park guards still do not have conspicuous uniforms 'With
embruidt:red I:In them;
in the
but ::since: the gr.rnrd::s
to plll,:
for them (at the cost of the cloth) one can imagine that trley \y'ill be poorly represented among
i ndividu31 'w'3rdrobes and rare] y replaced when damaged.
The above litany ls not meant to damn ttlePark Service, but rather to identify those aref:S
ttl3t conspicuous1 y need attention if the Park is. to ever be integrated into the emotional and
i ntelledual community that surround.s it (and has been marchi ng i nexorabl y up to it duri ng the
past 10 years). f1an lJ of ttlese thi ngs. can be rectified in just 1- 2 months of i ntensive·activity
before the eviction. t'"lost of these thi ngs si mpl y did not seem very relevant to Park development
when the Park was focused on 5i ren88nd the biological tourists and res~archers usi ng that site.
8) !t fs evident that Hie Perk Rangers come from a . . lide variet!J of backgroljr:d~, but t~:e;
have all been ex~,licitly and implicit}y indoctrinated with the concept of protecting Hit Park. In
this eocietlJ, 8S in on:ere, this
them de-facto
As such, some tend to take cn the
ste reot IJ pe'j be fl8vi 0re cf po 1i ce me n 83 vi eved i n ne\o/3 pa pe r~, tel evi 318 n rrq-li e~ "3 nlj t he C::d~
Rican ~treet. I n great part, this is not theki nd of Park
tt:e very least, an
t~le P~r":
needed nov or; n th~ future. At
Rangers to be ~nvolved directly or indirect;~.jn the e'.;iction sho!J~d
receiv€; an ir,tens€; sriort course and practice session 1 n gentle and mani \Jijlotiv€; pSl,ichological
responses. to cr"ol,y'ds, isolated drunks or other out-of-control individuals, harassed individuals
'With thei r btck$ to the '.'ia11 and nothi ng to l03e, fathers 'With famiiie~ \"ateh; ng the; r
performance, older i ndividuab attempti ng to hold together if coterie of apprentices etc. Demand
a cedula and you have a potE:nt;al fight on your hands if it is not in his pocket; ask if the person
owns one, and if he does not produce it, ask him to go get it, and you have a potential evictee. The
goal is peacefu1 eviction, not "saving face" or punishing trespassers. It is our experience that
'Wit hi n a group of "country-fol k" Costa Ricans there ere generall y e number of psychologicai1 y
\'lise people on the subject of i nter- personal relationshi ps. We are certai n tMt there are s(!me
wit hi n the National Park Service.
Put them to 'w'ork.
While it is going to take far longer than 1-2 months to develop the Park-community
interaction to where 1t \. . i11 permit and sustain the Park's upcoming efforts at keeping out the
gold mi ners (and other ki nds of interlopers) through patrolli ng, enormous strides for'w'ard can
be taken in the initial steps, even with a seemi n91 Y uFlreceptive audience. Its called pressi ng the
flesh, and this is the time for it, if there ever was. In this game, sincerity is measured in great
part by the amount of effort put into the sho",., even ",here the propaganda is obvious.
Location of the ranger stations and the central Park Admi nistratio;";.
At present there ere three ranger stetions in 'Whet might be termed the most criticel reQion~
"') ,Dos Brazos de Rl0
..- Tigre,
- Los Patos (near
the confl uence of Hie R10
ncon and the R10
and Madrigal. 1 'will discuss each in turn.
Los Patos. It is located in a fantastic site for 8 deep rainforest biological research station,
and is a very fine building for living in, but the Los Pat os station is essentially.functionless forthe purposes of both the eviction and subsequent effective presence on the Park. boundaries and
nearb l) re910.ns ttlat are ricrl ; n gold- beari ng streams (R1O Ni no, RiO Termo, R(o Ri ncon, etc.).
This opinion has also been stated firmly by internal reports of the Park Service. Current park
plans ~re to move this building to the site of Roxana's old house (Cerro de Oro, or Cerro Degro on
the official tope'graphic map), which is in the Park but across the Rio Rinco.n from Roxana's new
. pulperi&. We suggest that instead, the Los Patos station be left intact, patrolling functions be
immediately moved to Roxana's old house (fix it up after occupation as need be), and rent a small
amount of buildi rllJ ~;pece (or build it) at Hie junction of Hie Rlo RinCOn and ·Rlo Pavon. Yes,
someti me in the future a fi ne ne'v/ buildi ng ",ould be highl y appropriate for
site of Roxana's
old M!Jse, but fo r Hie ti me bel ng Hie co mbi nati an of ttlat a.nd a bit of re nted space 'w'in se rve QlJi te
Dos Brazos del Rio Tigre. While located in a good pasture site and next to.a (1J3uallIJ) passar:k
road to Puerto Jimenez, this nevi prefab building is1etha]]IJ far from
actio-i!. it 13 a s0~jC
riUur's 'wal k from the build; ng to the Park boundary, and up a 'w'icked 200 m cli rnb as 'w'ell (E1
·- 1
Peg6n). It is imperative that this buildi ng be conti nuaH y sopplemented \v'ith a Toyota pickup
tr uck for tran$port to Puerto Ji meftez and to the end of the rotd before be9i nni ng the long hi ke i:~1
the ParkbolJndary, and that it be ad,jition;31l IJ supplemented tlJ a major Park Guard encarnpment
at La Bonanza or La Torre} two major gold mining centers ju~;t inside the Park
These encampments can obviously be built no\\' . and should be side by side 'tlith the miners v/ho
are to be removed-from the site. At some later ti me, the Dos Brazos build; ng obviousl ~ has to Dt!
moved to a site right on the Park boundary or just inside (e.\L La Torre)" but that is not
imperativeat tnemomeilt. Additional funds must be spent on the manual labor ofturningEl
Peg on from a siippery chute to a reasonable facsimile of several hundred stairsteps (the same
the vertical cli mb into the POt-I:: from the j unction of Quebrada Piedras Blancos and the
left branch orthe Rio Tigre, a site \. . here the Park service correctly wishes to make a smal1
Madrig~l.. Plan~
have been made and the site seleded to build a ne\,' ranger station at the
mouth (If Que brada La Leo na" the poi nt of intersection of the Par k boundary \,Iith the sea$hore,
H0....,1 e. . . er) it '.,.,Im be
friO nt hs
be.fo re t hi S C8 n occ ur, 'n t he mea nti me} \,/e st ro ng1y reeo mme nd that
tempprartJ quarters be erected at the site, since the 1 hour walk from the Madrigal station to HIe
renders the
~urveill8nce 8etivitie~
station total1 ~ ineffective for any patrolli ng or
et the Perl:: boundery,
at he r site~;,
I n addition to the above well known sites} it is our opi nion that at least three other smaller
stations need to be operative duri ng and i mmediatel ~ after the eviction, The degree to 'w'hler, Hie;;
need to be mai ~tai ned in later year;; can be determi ned at that ti me,
V'there the Rio Aguja;; leaves the Pa;K} either near the company gold mi ni ng compound ,or'
perhap'$ better neat" or on fi nca Alegre o'wned blJ Gerardo Vega and adjoi ni ng the Park about
mi dwa IJ betwee n Roxa ne' ~ ge ne ral
~to re
and Dos 8 r8ZO~, Vega has vol untee red t he use.of. hi s
hOlJse there in emergency, but a temporary station for Park guards could be quickly b'uilt
'w'iU,out difficulty,
Where the Quebrada Piedras 81ences joi ns the left branch of the R~ Tigre, j ust a~ both of·
them leave the Park. This point is mid'i/ay between Dos Br8zos ar:d finca Villalobos 'w'f,ich
al ready exists i rt t he form of one of the recent1 y purchased far ms ('w'lUl Tor rnhouse) higtl o. . . er
tt:e upper reacrles o! the Q!Jebrada Piedras Blancas.
Fincs Villa1obos, 'w'hich is the natural take-off point to walk down to Carate from the south·
central portion of the Park boundary, This farmhouse ;s 81 ready in place and an excellent house
site, wiHI fruit trees, running 'w'aterarld sunnlJ p~~,ture$, It is a~$c a:ce~,sible blJ horse t'<li] to a
large farm (Guillermo Jimenez Caldt.:-ofl) outside oOhe Park on the Quebn"ja
Piedras Slancas.
ImQfovements to existing and immediately future r;9f1ger- stations.
Certain changes must occur in the stations along the Park boundaries before ttteeviction:
1. There must be reliable radio communication among them and \-lith the outside \"or1d_
V1hile in theory HIe portab1e radio carried er. our inspection tour can reach all ever Co~;ta Rica,
in fact -it VIes not even able to call the Park admi nistration buildi ng at 5i rena. The problem is
Ulat the highl y dissected terral n places one often at the bottom of steep-sided valle lJ$ \\/here this ki nd of communication just does not Ylork- unless there is a repeater station somey/here in the
vici nity. Duri ng this ti me of potential crise3 it is imperative that radio systems kno'vln to
function are operative along the Park boundaries, even if the slJstem has to be on loan from
some other government agency for- several months after the eviction.
2: There are certai n,trails that are essential to the success of the eviction, but some of these
are extremel y difficult to traverse because- of damage done by passage of pack and ridder:
It is apparently impossible to prohibit the entrance of these horses at present(a. right of'vlay
problems (servidumbre) across the Park in the case of the trail from the upper QlJebrad~
Piedras 81ancas to Dos Brazos; b. entrance
horseback ~raders from Roxana's pul peria 8~
Cerro de Oro, under the threat that if the,:! ere not allo'Yled to sell meat in the Park, the
VIm turn to hunti nG). Several months is not enough ti me for trails to naturall V recuperate even
if horses are prohibited. An obvious solution is to put local people (gold miners?) to W'ork
maki ng foot trails that are parallel to those that-are currentl y best descri bed as ankle to
mid-calf deep grooves of liquid mUd. On _several of the steeper trails, a creYl of 2- 3 or three 'vIor~:i ng \..,dth shovels could also vastl y improve the steps.
3. Food .and fi re\%od stores must be established at the various ranger stations so that no ti me
and energy is spent on provisioni ng logistics duri ng tne fi rst couple of 'v/eek::. after Hie eviction.
4. All. members of the Park ~ervice to be involved in the operation ~hould be spend; ng
the relevant trail systems so as to not only kno'vJ ho'vl to get 'where fast and
ho'. . . at night, but also so as to understand ho'. . . long and hoW' much effort it 'viill take for them
penonaH y. During this ti me, needless to say, thepresence of the Park personnel can be ma":ie
maxi rna 11 lJ con~Dicuous and it is an excellent ti me to be communicati ng patientllJ 'v/it~1 the
mi flers to ~n$"!ler the same ki fids of questions that other Park personnel 'vIill be ans'v/eri ng in the
community aroIJn1 Hie ParI:.
5. ihe temDOrf:lrlJ
stations srlolJlc be made ph:picf:lll J secure so that the glJ~rds can
rest comfortabl y at night and; n heavy rai n. While 'vie feel that mi11tary security offered to HIe
P,'3rk G!.larcs b:; an'J kind of building is illusory,
tne elements and "the enem1f can
tie 'v'erlJ
"de a]~o
rec:oQ:lize triM a ee:-ise offre:::dom from
lmpcrtant in m;71intoiniilg rnor'll€:_ Oil t'li? oHler
it is abvi-ous that senior Park personnel have a major task on their hands to bring younger
membere of the Park Service to realize that thi::. ie neither a Holl yv/Ood','l8r movie nor a
situation that is best re::;olved through. physical conrlic:t. I n the same vei fI, there is a strong
tendency among Park Rangers in all Costa Rican parks to strongly avoid 'Working as~;olit8ry
individuals; substantial improvements inefficiency of manp0'w'er use could come about through
some psychologital effort in the direction of removing the SUbstantial fear.ofthe dark and of
"dangerous animals" that occupies the minds of many of the younger Park Rangers.
SUP-Rort from Puerto Jimenez
The medical
at Puerto Ji menez must be prepared for the increased medicallosd that
'Will result from the eviction, ifin nothing more than snakebite cases· and a puheofsicl~
i ndi\dduals that have here-to- fore deci ded to just 'vIait it out in the forest. Of 11 ke manner, it is
imperative that the eviction occur at the begi nni'ng of a long stri ng of 'w'orl~i ng days, 'i/ith no
holidays and 8 mi 01 mum of weekends. As our inspection tour discovered ina several hour \Y'ait
on the ai rstri PJ the planes customarily used for charter ~ervice to Puerto .Ji menez and Si re na
(current Park He8dquarters) tend to be repai red on the spot rather than the subject of i nte;:~;e
preventative mai ntenance; tests Of actual !light performance by the planes to be in use 'w'ould
probobl y b~
0 \'ii~e
; n"e~tment.
Aid from the Rural Guard.
The actual eviction and intense patrolling of the Park for severa] months afterwards are
beyond the manpo'Wer capabilities oftne Park Service in general and Corcovado specifically. The
eviction cannot occur 'vlithout Hie aid of several hundred members of the Rural Guard (or other
government agency). V'/ithout thei r aid, removal of the gold mi ners from the Park \y'ill be a
several yeer project that while probebl Y.feas; ble, \v'ill be very expensive in manpo\v'er end
material resources - and these ·will have to be expended at 8 level of sophi~;tic8ted coord; nation
riot possi ble at
or in the i rn medi ate future 'Withi n the National Park Service. V1taile
guaranteed aid from the Rural Guard may sound si mple and straightfor\v'ard . . in fact it \',ill
require c'on:;iderably more negotiation and firm commitments than at present have occ:Jrred.
The primary variables are the follo"ding:
We are approx; matellJ 8 monH:s before t~:e next Presidential 'election itl Costa Rica, and the
thp. no'wer to 'withdra'ithe Rural Guard from any activity during this time and
put it to work on rr:8tters pertai ni ng tokeepi ng the election orderl y end honest.
2. Given Hie problems on Costa Rica's
r:ort~;ern }orct':",
the eviction at anlJ moment; plans must be
for tii13
c:-.atiofial e:-;-:erQe~i~IJ could drop on
3. The. upper level commandi ng officers of the Rural Guard n'1i nisterio de Gobernacion y
Policla) are Dclitical appointee~ . rather than civil ~ervtnt~, and therefore autorpatical1 lJ
subject to politica1 interests. Some of them maiJ find it ver!J convenient to vithdra\o,.. Rural
Guard support of Hie eviction in order to cal m an outcry that may be used by poliHcal opponent:;.
4. Although San ,Jot-e officialt- may decide that the Rural Guard 'dill hel pin the eviction,
regional officers'may chose to disregard this decision (depending on its firmness) if the eviction
turns out to be embarrassing to them. For example, one i.ntermediate-level officer has
threatened to i mmediatel y vithdrav the Rural Guard if there is any violence (violence b'ei n'~'
undef; ned in this case).
5. The Rurel Guerd
a unifof !:lome 30 men thet are ~peciall y trai ned for rural ev;chone ..
Thei r officers have visited Corcovado in June and feel that the eviction can be carried out 'w'itrl .
little difficulty. HO'v/ever, they have also poi nted out that thei r men are trai ned to move thi ngs
right along and to destro'J house sites, etc. as they remove the evictees.
difference in
approach, 'w'hich can make a critical difference in the mi ner's responses . is obviou~;1 y someHd rig
that has tv be straigMen(;d out if the Park Service ;s to mai ntai n a reputation of be; ng maxi mall y
humanitarian in protecti ng the Park.
6. As mentioned earlier . it is imperative that the eviction not become synonymous \oIithe
gigantic police identitlJ check. As such, agreements will have to be worked out to the effect that
the police or Rural Guard units understand tMt their function is to aid the Park Service in this
eviction . even iflt means passing up certain other opportunitie~;. When discussing tiles€:
"lith members of the Rural Guard, it \oIas repeatedl y stressed that junior officers felt that the!J
had to have multi ple reasons for the Rural Guard to stalJ for severa] months ("because theyare
not accustomed to such a long stalJ on one project")} such as labeli ng a portion of the operation a
trai ni ng course in jungle survival and i magi ni ng that they ar'~ s\.;eepi ng the area for foreign
me rce na ri es. It is; mpe rati ve that 3 uc h offi ce rs be ass ured that the ydo not have to fa bri cate
!:luch rationa1izetions, but rether thet the operetion is in itself a leg1ti mate expenditure of ti me
anlj effort, and Hlat the goal of thoroughly and peacefully removing humans from a national
is a 'worthy one. There is even discussion of the guards havi ng to kill ani male for food duri ng
thei r "course in j ungie 3urvival"; it is obvious that a national park cannot be used for this
portiorl of"such a course, and even more so not at a time 'w't;en the purpose of the eviction is to
eli mi nate human i rn~lact. Incidentall y, should the rural gW;lrd reall y 'viish to have trai ni ng in the
of "j ungle survival", 'vle suspect that there are members of H:e community of field
bio1ogist:3 stud:Ji ng in Costa Rican park:;; an,j reserves th~t could be vertJ vai uab1e members of t~l<::
trai ni ng cadre.
7. Tt:e eVlctlor. is de;'ende~,t cr: government officials to close the various sources of a1cO~i;:Ili.~
beverages for
dalJs before Hie eviction, during it, and several dalJs after.
'w'ill ijf
course make an immediate negative; mpact on the relevant merchants, an impact that deserves
considerable tho~9ht by Hie the
lGuard$ and Park Ranger$ as to rIO',\' tel am.;:1iot-ate it.
8. Let. us say th;3t;~ conti
ngent (if R'",tVl Guards and sever'a1 Park: Ran'Jers move up (or dov/n)
particular river system 'w'ithi n the Park and in the process accumulate a small crowd of Mme 1(I
\I"ith a fe'll famil y members and a lot of personal belongi ngs (probabll) more than the
mi ners can carry) .•Just ho'w' is this group goi ng to move over extremel y muddy and steep
footpaths at any rate other than a snail's pace . effectivel y tyi n9 up ell of that set of Guards for
1- 2 'da ys \1" hil e. t tie y move along? Thi s i~; not 8 set of PO'l'is (p ri so ne rs of \va r) bei ng goaded do\v' n
a \,/ide Oi rt road by cloutish soldiers 'w'ith submachi ne guns. These details requi re considerable
\vith a receptive Rural Guard, and perhaps even·a bit of practice. It is onethi ng for
an officer to proudly state that his men can clear this or that drainage in x dalJs, and quite
another ~o kno'w' that they actuall y can do it 'w'ithout physical conflict. It ha;:; to be made
abundantly clear to the Rural Guard that much more hangs in the balance than whether thet,l have
a fe'.,,.. nastlJ thi ngs said about them ina San Jose newspaper, The evacuation cannot be vie'w'ed as
a tratning ground, a large experiment with only a certain moderate chance of success.
9.. The combined Park
and Rural Guards must have a clearer concept oftheir legal
rig.hh \\Iith respect to Hie d'w'em ngs of the gold mi ners. The Park Di rector (Juan Cart os
Romero) i!:i of the opinion that they cannot obtain 0 generalized judiciary document that leg81ize~
the entry of anld unspecified house when the mi ners are there, so as to evict the mi ners. He
believes that & separate order, specifically identifying the person and d'w'elling,
required for
each miner. If this is the case, much of the eviction could easily be thwarted by clever gold
mi ners. The spectre of Guards i mpatientl y 'llaiti ng for
outside of a mi ners house for ·hi m to
step outside comes to mi nd 8S part of the comedy. On the other hand, the Rural Guard is of the
opi nion that Hlis is not a problem and that they can evict as they please. Bi ndi ng legal advice is
obvio.u:::llJ necessary. Once the mi ners are out of the Park, the Park Di rector is of the opi nion
t h&t he C8 n 1ega11 y co nfi scate 8nd dest ro y the d\Ole Hi ngs and mi ne 'w'O r ki ngs.
PreRaration and resRonse of the National Park Service.
As stressed in the Introduction to this report, the eviction of the gold miners from Corcovado
follo"iled by the return of the Park to a miner-free regenerating/pristine condition i~ H!e single
large.st crfsi~, that has yet faced the Costa Rican National Park Service. Put si mp11J, if the Park
service canrlot mobilize the leW's and attitudes of Costa Rica to protect Corcovado from.gold
:ni ners) Hley klVe si multaneousl y demonstrated the futility of futr,er conservation efforts in
Costa Ric3; interri3tional support, as 'v/ell as internal support, \v'ill go else'where and the largest
program intropica1 conservation bioiog'J 'w'ill die. It follo\vs from this, as.'well as
from the obvious fact that muctl of H!e problerr: sttrrlS from inactivity on the part of tJ~e
Pork Service diJri fig the P8$t four years, that it is imperative for the
Park Service to
apply virtually all of its resources to the problem for the several months until it is clearly past
H:e crisl$level and i nte \'lhat might be termed an active management pr:ese. !f the N<:Jtional Park
Service is not v/il1inlJ to appltJ all ofit:3elfto the problem, hc:,w' can one expect more peripheral
agencies to make a spec:ial efforUo hel p, to say neUd fig of Ute
of people 'w'hoare go; ng to
hove their lives, hopes ond futures seriously strained by the evictiC'n?
In Vie\'l of this ,·the commission has a number of seem; ngl y drastic but extremel y i mport:=.::;t
suggestions "'lith respect to the Costa Rican National Park Service 8S a ".' hole with
to the
evacuation. Agei n, some of these have been discus~;ed and favoratll y received \\lithi n the Park
Service, but 'w'e have not been left .'with sfeeling that the Park Service as s vlhole shares our
sense of extreme emergency ..
1. I'mmediatel y declare a . . .'idely publicized state of emerger:cy, \'lith the stated intent of
free; ng vi rtuall y all personnel and fund$ for this operation. If there are oHler immediate trul y
unavoidable crises operating at the moment assign a specific small team of people to hold tha~
situation static, and emp~lasize to all
that 'w'fien the Co:-covado situation
dO . . /n. 8 substantial force of (no'w') more experienced Park Service staff'w'ill be unleashed on the
other ~nse3.
2. The state of emergency should involve c-ancelation of all i n- house courses and attendan'::e ;~:
(rut5ide of the country. All
vecation or other ki nd~ ofleeve ~hould be meae
optjona1, 'with the personnel that rerna; nat 'y/ork be; ng compensated as usu81 for
ti me
involved. Persons 'w'ith particular experience in the zone (e.g., Park personnel 'with
experience in Corcovado) should be encouraged to cancel their official vacations or leave-taking .
and allo'yled to accumulate the free time for later longer vacations.
3. The state of emergency
s~lould i nvo~ve
clo;;i ng of the other Costa Rican National Parks to
all exce8t Quite self-suffiCient researchers \y'rlo CfjO argue on s case by case basis that 1) Ute l;
Vlill not reQui re Park services s6d 2) interruption of thei r research 'w'ould destroy significant
conti nuHy of studies i ft
Askeieton crew should be left at the various Perks onl y for
essential mai ntenance and patrolli og where deemed especiall y necessary. There may well be
numerous cases 'where Park personnel can be temporarily traded among other Parks so as to
free up a maxi mum number of a certai n ki od of Park Rangers for temporartJ use in Coreovado.,
Park rar:gers that are e3peciall lJ.competent in harsh field ci rcumstances, mature i rt thei r
ability to deal 'w'ittl pot.ential1y explosive human interactions, and experienced with hot lO"~/l~nd
Mbitats li ke trtose of Corcovado National Park. ! n vi rtu31l I.J all cases, U:e park di rect~rs from
p3rk~ St;~U!':
:e or. hand i-n Corcollado
a~ seccr;:j-in-cc~;;mar:d
to tte operaticr: diredor (aLa
be eQu;Jl1':! kno'~/le,jg~et'le about the operation); it i~ imperetive that all Htis does not feli apart
It is highly symbolic of \'ihat is 90i ng to happen over the upcomi ng several decades if the National
Pijrk Service cannot u~e the 1ij \11 $ and attitudee ofttre countnJ to protect the perh that it al reedrJ
Co rcovado vas c1(lsed to to ur 9nil": p~; and co u~-3e~;
0 n 15
t'1a y 1985 at the req uest of t ~;e Pa r k
Di rector so that all his personnel are free for Hie eviction and its planni ng W'e need aha to
stress that the Park Service, in the best oft1mes . operates '-lith numbers offield personnel VIe]]
c. t "':~t n,:, ,-f
~.; n~ ur-l
red. .,. u·;·+
I- 01 d co nd~f ti 0 ~_c· Co+"'tl· C
,1t.. 1· ...............
c· 01/1· d" nt to uV
I t h"'t aroe r"'''
"1 Ul· .
.·" +.. Uli
I ...., ... ,.. ..... ' ..
b....'" 10\-' +.,,, ml· 11.11
of the "i nacti vit 1,1 " on HIe part of the Park Se rviee that rias led to tr,e current condition in the
southern thi rd of tile Park is si mpl y an overall extreme·shortage of personnel. Even under ti;e
current emergency (·w·ith numerous positions al ready borro'w'ed from other parks for
Coreovado) }the total Park staff is 40 pereons, about ~l3 of ,.ihieh are on active duty on any
give·n day. Consideri ng thatvi rtual1 y all patrolli ng is on fo.ot andtherefcre very ti me
consumi ng, and consideri ng that 'We are tal ki ng of protect; ng 43 .. 000 hectares from· quite
literall y hundreds of persons 'v/hc \v'ould 1; ke to. harvest somethi ng from the Park at any given
moment, the staff ef 40 is absurdl y 10.\\1. There are tw'o obvious solution~;. Raise the overar
number offield positions available to problematical parks like Coreovado (and train tbose
rangers to. \llork i ndependentl y), and co.ncentrate en thQs.e community relations that vill scmed:::IJ
result in 81 most no. patro.1li ng bei ng necessary to. co.unter explicit encroachment.
4. The state of eme rge ne y req ui res me mbe r3 o.f the mai n ad ml ni st rati ve offi ce to si t de\-/ nard
fight among each other until 811 are agreed on 'What is to occur before a single major $te~:
taken. If a person si mpl y cannot force hi mself or herself to abide by the general view' for trle
purposes cfthis crises, then he or she shculd temporarily step dO'wn from a position of
.authcrity and either take a vacation, or handle scme ether prcductive post.
is nct a ti me for
petty in-ho.use po'Werplays, jealousies . court intrigue, or simple stubbornness. If you cannot
convi nee ycur associates of ~our position, then agree to disagree and stop tryi ng to. sabotage tr:e
Park Service. It has already been clear during a number ¢fthe in-ho~se ccmmittee meetings on
the subject of Corcovado. that certal n member3 of the San Jose mai n office "do no.t believe in
an eviction"; \-lhen pressed hC"dever, thelJ have no alternative plan. Such force:;;
obvio!J81y ha-.;e trle potential to destrolJ or greatl'J impede 'Whatever finol plan the Park: Service
decides cn, and have to be nullified befcre anlJ steps are taken .
. 5. He stete of emergenc l) 'w'ill not be properl y developed by si mp1 y mcvi ng al1 able- bodied
persons toCoreovad(, for Hie eviction. Ho\·. . ever, it 'Will free up
from thai r routi ne dutie~
in San Jo~;e 3nd otner parks to. 'Work at ce··. . eloping links t1et'v/een HIe Park Service and t~le ether
relevant i nstHutions (private as 'vIei] as public)
tr.e greater San Jose comrnlinitld, and
'work in the community surrounding the Park. V1rlile it ria,:, alreaQ'J been 3ugges"t<;d b'J an
i n- rlOIJSe report that the
Ranger IGuides i n variolJ~; Cost;j Ricar; parks are ob-'/:::"25
for Hlis tlJpe (jf public relation activities. it is also clear t~;3t Hie older Qliij more
experienced me mbers of the National Park Service staff.. irrespective of thei r official titles,
\\/ould be appropriate. Inc:hlentl.ll1 !J., thi~ i~ also the time for;:,n
conservation-education community in Costa Rica, W'hether
members of HIt
W'Hh the National
Service . LINED., CATI E, UN, free-lance or 'v/natever, to defrron~;trate that they reaH Ii can
a focused product to meet a speci fic and highl y perti nent demand rather than just those pretty
(and usefuD folcrers or audio-visual sho\. . s on fascinating rainforest beasts.
6. The Di rector of the Perk Service has €I very speciel role top.1ey in ell of this. It is clear .
that he ha~; the ability and inclination to use personal persuasion as a major \. . eapon in conflicts·
over the Costa Rican parks. It is a chronic disease of Costa Rican park establishment that the
actual cash to purchase expropriated farms often appears much later than does the decree or
request to cease farmi ng, hunti ng and loggi ng. The Di rector has proven very effective in
personall ~ persuadi ng farmers to be patient 'vlith the system and thereby keep the situation in
some ki nd of relativel y static equili bri um until funds are found·or released. I n th~ case of the
eviction, it appears to us that his
per~;onal pre~;ence
as mediator and persuader W'ill be of very
great val ue in the community surroundi ng Corcovado, \-lith special reference to tW'o situations.
fi rst, trlere are guaranteed to be disgruntled mi ners. Personal conversations \\'itn a person i r.
confident 'Jet gentle control will be an essential tool for both cal ming thei r anger and convi nci ng
them thot t he "other ~ide" i~ not j u~t a bunch of sleez\:I right-wi ng politicians tryi ng to steal
Corcovado from the costa Ricans. Second, ttlere are the poW'erful central members of the gold
mi ner community outside of the Park (e.g., Felix Avell~n). As mentioned else'w'here, pO'w'erful
members of the conservation community need to meet seriousl y ·. .lith such people, W'ith the a1 m
of making it Quite clear that in the long run, they, as W'el1
the entire community, 'vlill benefit
far more from a thrivi ng livi ng Corcovado National Park than from abatch of W'8shed out muddy
ditches doW'n steep hillsides and silt -rich lO\ollar:d rivers.
7. It is imperative that the central office desiQnate (or locate outside of the Park Service) ~
team of 3 persons ,·those full-ti me task it is to document vi rtuall y everything that happens be a
source of report and factual information for the press and TV as W'e.ll a3 those explicitl y carryi ng
the eviction, and write up a documentary book on the aftermath. They must have access to &
high grade xerox mach; ne (not the one in the office), round the clock access to a
\·iord- pro'cestor, and 24- hour national and international telephone access. There must be a
\llell- publicized rlot-li ne telephone number 'w'here concerned citiz.ens can get information on
'vIrlat is happen; ng.
After the eviction
An enormous ani1)Unt of confidence, resources, effort and IJrief'ot,lil1 go into the eviction. If the
aftermath is asimple or complex re-invasion of the Park for gold no'w', or in later years for the
ti mber and land that the Park contai ns, the disaster \',1ill be even greater than a fail ure of the
eviction at present. Here the commission concerns it~elf \v'ith parts of the ~;ocia1 ecosystem tfi(;t
might appear above and beyond the scope of the gold m; ner problem; fI the southern tn; rd of the
Park, yet ar.e·.in fact centr:-al and critical to the survival of Cor co vado (and by analog lJ, Hie
remai nder of the Costa Rican national park system).
I nte racti 0 ns ame nG~Qove r nme nt age nci es.
It is obvious that to date the National Park Service has not immersed itself in the planning
activities of the other agencies involved in the p1anni'ng and carryi ng out of the economic
developii:ent of the O::;a F'eni n~,ula. Recently, t~e fi rst step 'Was taken in the formation of an
inter-agency committee, but this committee's activities are in their infancy and bear the marks
of be; ng ClO:3~ to go; ng the \'ia~ of all such; ntero-agency committees that are formed 'I\"ith gooc
intentions but h3v; ~lg no focal driv; ng force or cause of common interest to many agencies. It isHI~ tOe~pon~i
bility of the Net;onill Park service to make the other government 8gencie~
at!undantl y a",l'are of 'w'rlat Corcovado National Park offers the Osa Peni nsula specificall y as . .lell
the country a~; a 'w'hole. For example, the Park Service 'w'ants the Banco Central to stand up
and state f; rm1 y to the Puerto Ji menez community at large that a) onl y one quarter of the gold
(equal to
~falf e
million dollars per year) bought by the Sank in Puerto Jimenez comes from the
Pa r k and b) the Ba nco Ce nt ra 1 does not see t he gold fro m Co rcovado as bei ngof s uffi ci ent
importance to Costa Rica's economy to be . . 'orth the sacrifice of Cor co va do (and hence the Park
Service). In r.eturn,the National Park service has to provide the Banco Central 'With factual
propagandj such a~ a) research and scientific tourism associated \vith Corcovado alone bring a
mi:1ion donars
Expedition~;) ~n:j
year to Costa Rica (calculation blJ Mr. Michael Kayne, Costa Rica
h) in trle l,?ng run Hie tourist opportunities for Puerto Jimenez 'with the Park
a rm.1or attra::tion \//ill mean much more for the long-term development of Puerto J; menez .
arid it~; e;I\':; ror:::; tr:en 'Will a bunch of rni nere bUIJi ng groceries and booze in local pu1 peria:;;.
The PC! r k Se.rvice rnu:;t be aggressive in selli fig tb val ue on suer, matters, rat he r titan 'Wait
for the more dire~:t and obvious Iluman 3ervice agencies te: corne knocking er: nle dcor. '."Ie M3rd
in trle 1 Ju11,f meeting tr:at IDA and t1iDEPLAN are eagerily looking fot"'odard to heari:-,g 'W'heUier a
group \,,..ill begi rt to develop a huge tract of Forest Re3erve off the northea<::tern corner
of Corco\lado into a slJstai ned yield forest
for nlE: F'ark
~.y::,te~il t,)
man~gement sy~tem.
Qsk it::, biologists and lts
There is tile obvious o~portunH~
friencs both ·.... hat sorts of resources
does the Park itself offer SUC~i iJ program, and \/hat sorts of expertise can the National Park
Se rvi ce coe fce ; rrto bei fig coo pe r8t~ ve1y i nvo1ved i n the prog r8 IT!. Seeele of fl8ti ve t ree3 fo r
planti ng come"'to mi nd i mmediatel y for the fi rst part of tile opportunity, and the flood of plant
'worki ng as esoteric biologists inthe country's Parks and
come to mind for
the second half of the urogram.
Along similariine~;, the eviction b gOing.to be putting numerous people out ofw'ork (or at
least they predict it will), people 'w'ho ere very much at home in livi fig in the forest on meager
resources, forest of the very type that the ·plan nienti.oned above plans to manage. Parks could
play an obvious humanitarian role by attempting to maintain register contact w'ith such people,
and thus be in contact \vith a highl y accli matized labor pool
be of much greater val ue
to slJch a management plan than people selected from Hie unemployed of San J03e and other
highland areas. No, the Park Service cannot
the Park Service can play an
the evacuated full-time miner a job, but
role in maximizing the chance that such a miner finds a
dHferent ki nd of forest emploYIT:ent, thereby mi ni mizi ng the chance that
wil1 be tempted to
try to 311 p by the Park Rangers 6 months or a year from novl. As vlili be emphasized belo'w"
\v'hile the National Park service obviously.cannot feel that it~; job is to find employment for Costa
Rica's rural unemp1oyed, it is very much.to the Park Service's advantage to lend maximum idea
and moral
that will $tetrilize local rural
in ~uch a ml!Jnr:~r that f:I
national park is not viel,y'ed a~; 'wild land to be colonized for the harvest of gold, ti mber
whatever. That is to say, if State-o'w'ned forest
are up for grabs to the more
ambitious and daring colonist (as they are in much of Costa Rica today), it is and W'ill become
i ncreasi r:g1 Ydifficult to mai ntai n the opposite for equall y unoccupied and val uable national
terrrai n. I nstead of sitti ng around and bitchi fig
Service and the WHdlife Service appear to be, offer all
hoW' 'Weak and ineffectual the Forest
ble hel p and support to Hlem.
r1any government agencies do have partiar to on--goi ng plans W'ith respect to the overal1
economic development of the O$a Peni n$ula. Ho\vever, there i~ no central office or poi nt "there
·al1of the~;e p:ans can be vie'wed and discussed. furthermore, feW' if any government agencies
.' have a clear idea of the val ue (cash and moral i hput) that.a properl y functioni fig large and
i nternationall y kno\<ln National Park can bri ng to the local community. It is up the Park service
·to·lel) out its plans for the tourist and otherdeveloprnent of Corcovado in such a manner that is
ObV10US to relevant government agencies as 'vIeli as to Hie communit l) at large just 'w'hat a
resource it is, and hoW' it can make gold mining appear really quite trivial. Yes, al1 this W'ill
take time, but then 8931n, ! suspect that most everybody ccncernec 'Win realize that ,egiQria:
development does not happen overnight - but mappi fig out the routes can happen vi rtualllJ
Co rcovado., and b) t hat rna ny age nci es are just no'.,,, gea ri ng ,u p to have at it, it is te mpti ng to
re~pof'ld \I/ith Hit cornmerrt HI8t \I/e h;:,ve to leeve the eviction unt11 the overen'situation on the O::::ij
Peni nsu1a is m:..;ch tietter-eG. ; n such a \O/::lit \<le are tal ki r;iJ of several to maliiJ :,Iears, Bnd these
are IJears that cannot tolerate the ever greater accumulation of irrevet"si ble destruction of the
Park and feeli og of tenancy by the peoDle in the Park. This is a country 'vIhere increased
durati an of ill ega} (ICC upa nc y 1eads steadil y to i nc reased 1egi ti maey of t hat (ICC upa ne y.
interactions \-lith the legal sy~item.
The laW's dealing specifically W'ith persons 'Who are found gold mining, hunting or pursuing
other destructive or hervest ectivities within the Park requir.e some specific modifications
before the~\'li11 permit hiQh quality patrol1ing ofa place as large and inaccessible as is
Corcovado National Park. At present, a person mining or hunting in.the Park
committing a
and ~ubject only to a mode~t fine (and confiscation oftoo1:::). for the crime
to be a felofl lJ and therefore have real penalties, not only does gold or game have to be found en
the person and confiscated.; but even 8 highly illegal mining pump has to be taken in to the judge
proof. What has to be developed by the legal slJstem is that I)'"Ij ni ng is mi ni ng and rlunti ng i~
hunting,.irrespeetive of ho'w' successfu1'w'as the quest, or hoy': clever \vas,the person at acquiring
the !:rootlJ. A bonk robbery
i~ 0
bonk robbery, . .lhether the
empty or full when blCtvn
open. If ami ner h;33 'worked hard for seven31 days to get a ~Ieavy mi ni ng .pumpor severa:
hundred meters of pipe deep into the Park, it should not be up to the Park Ranger to have to drag
them out to Golfito to get 8 conviction. If the legal system decides that a Park Ranger's \.;ord
cannot be taken as to w'hether a person IIl8S a gold miner or a tourist
through the Fark,
the n indeed a11 t he pat ro 11 i ng will be 1arge1y i neffeeti ve. Ape rsofl does tr!e sa me 8 rna unt of
damage to the Park in 'Washi ng tw'o tons of soil into a creek irrespective of 'Whether he fi nds any
p~'rson 1S
a ranch o\o/ner out for >j
v/eekend edventure or whether the per~on is an out-of-'Work banana companlJ prior employee; it
gold. Like'w';se) the damage to the Park b the same W'hether the
is ttle judge's job to decide on the size of the fine, but the Park ranger must have the 8uthorit J to
label the act as cri mi na1 'Without havi ng to additional1 y play games wo'ith the la'~breaker or serve
Does gold rliai::e it different.?
Th:-re is 3 'v/icespread opi nion among Park Servfce members, end among cor:servatioilists in
Costa Rica a3 'We 11 , that Coreovado is a very speCial ease becai.:':.1! of the
traitt~on;jllIJ hi;~1
val :.. e
of gold, the Ijd',/ent IJ re i rr 0 bt8i ni ng it, i b i fie ni mate nal ure, the i nijcce.~ei bil i t IJ of Co rcovaQ:), Hre
rapid rise tn Hie international val Ue of O)1d duri i:g nle past 5 IJears. et:..
nion is sfiortsighted and basicai1'1 incorrect
t~!':: op~ i:j!)~,
8f t~ie
90:0 is ':,~,Yiou~;i,i
valuable.and there is much of it in Corcovado . in a verlJ short. time it vlin be the trees in
th:;,t vlil1
Ute bul k item of enormou~ value. Later it 1.'/111 come to be threats of
pesticide contami n;jtion, \OleaHler changes from deforestatior: aci;j ra1 n, etc. For
examp1e . a very rough esti mate of the current val ue of the ti moer standi ng in Corcovado
Park is $100 .. 000 .. 000.00 ([rr. Gary Hartshorn, Tiopical Science Center). At current rates of
go 1d ext racti 0 n. it \o/i11 ta ke 200 yea rs to ext ract that mtiC n gold 0 ut of Co rcovacto , and the
accessible gold 'Will have been exhausted long before that time. It is likely that Costa Rica's
sta ndi ng \vi] rj ti mtIe r rese rves \11m be vi rt ua 11 y no n- exi ste nt \y·it hi n 20- 30 yea rs ti me.: and
there is no substantial plantation or other kind of re-timberi ng program that \y·m fill the need.
Jt i~ ea:ltj to predict major importation of ti mber,
he~vy change~
to\\/ard :ltone- beeed
for construction, and skyrocketi ng v'al ues of wild rai nforest hat;dwoods such as are current1 y
promi nent in Corcovado, are bei ng harvested de;l y from the forest
(e."g ... Et.quinas) . , and being used as
marvelou~ t.lJurce~
around Corcovado
offuel . . ./ood \\/hen not sold 8S timber. A
RU:-Rurea) log worth $200 at the roads:de at the r:ead of the Golfo Dulce i~;
\\Iorth $1000-1500 in San Jose . and may be 'Worth ten ti mes that if delivered to Scandanavia or
Ne\y' York. Put most Simply, timber is the next gold in Corcovaao and land fol1o\l/s trlat.. [f 3
methodology and mi nd-set for selli ng anq protecti ng the P.arK a3 an intact livi ng natural jevel
1 ~l
Co~ta Rica'~
treasure che~t 13 riot developed NOV·... under the current crisis, not only 'Will there
ernl lJ a very flawed je. .·lel to sen the DubHc, but the audience of skeptics ",ill be much larger than.
the Puerto Ji menez-Corcovado community. And of course it is not just Corcovado. Santa
Nation3l Park 1S under ~evere threat from agricultuf81 chemicals carried by rai nlH'ater runoff.
Chi rri po is under severe annual. threat from fi re} and Amistad w'ill be under threat froIT:
far mers if those there cannot be compensated soon. NO large flat interior lO'w'land piece of Costa
RiGari rai nforest has ever been put i nte a National Park, and the interaction w·ith NicaraGua
makes slJch an occurrence seem less likely every d3!J.
It i~ i ~perative that the CO:lta Rican Netional Park Service place et the top of it~ li~t of
··developmer:~ prioritie:~
those; nteractions \'/ittr the remai nder of the society that \ilm generate 8
feel; ng that the Parks are 8:5- inviolate &s are the schools and churches. I may nc.te thot trlere is a
sutl stantial amount of gold 1n C03t8 .Rica·s ch.urches and anthropological collections and IJet there
appears to be no IT:3jor drive to U$e it to palJ off the national debt. There are t·i/O vlays to save a
r. Assign it a 24 hour Park Guard \-/ith a submac:hi fie gun, or expen,j Hie same amount of
energy renderjrrg it immoral to ser'i1e tapir meat to your.family and neigr!bors.
Corcol/ado and its surroundi ng
Afe'w' C3 ye s pe nt ; n Pue rto .Ji me nez, the Pa r k arrd the r ura1 co!J rrt rt,!3i de bet-wee n t he two wi 11
contai rai ng some pi r-ate's treasure and a country-cl ub for 'w'ealthlJ gri ngos. Many have been
thought of blJ members of the Park Service Ot- obliquel 'J sugge~ded
10(:a1 residents. HO\·/ever .
there i:.:; no specific program vithin the National Park Service desiynelj to foment sucr, things for
Hie Parks in general or Corcovado in particular. Such a program is obviousl y needed, and not in
the form of someone sitti r.g behi r.d a dest~ ; n San Jose vlrit; ng pretty folders or solicit; ng TV
specials on the P8,1~ for gri ngo ~iome vie\y'i ng. Belo\~,' 'w'e mention 8 fev.·' idees but assume that
any observant person exam; ni fig the community 'w'ith this goal; n mi nd \l/ou1d both render our
list both incomplete and superficial. There are quite enough cor'rect di rections and policy
suggestions in the i n- house ~ommittee reports on Corcovado'i n the Park Service to suggest that
if the authors had been turned lose on the problem in the field rather than in distant San .Jose,
some very \v'orkable and sound operation plans vlould have appeared, lac~:i ng little more than
funding and a cohesive blessing from the Park Service as a whole ..
1. Turn to the community for purchase €If food and ,other genera! store supplies. Yes, they are
more expe;:slve in !='uerto Jimenez and other pulperies, but aperson that doe~; not integrate into
his community by vi rtue of purchases must have exceptional other thi ngs to offer.
1 am
full y
awere th3t at present the Park Guards pay for the food they eat; but the food fund is very
substantially enriched by input from researchers paying for. meals,. and ~he .Park feod is
; ndi reetl y sub~idized blJ the flights to Si rena from San Jo~e.
cosb malJ, for example,
instead be di rected at the purc hase ofloca1 food. Ho\.;ever it is done, mal nta; ni ng Corcova;jo Of;
food a1 rmailed from San Jose eost~; dear] yin more than just charter costs.
2. Turn to the community for recreational activities by Park guards. Flights to Si rena
should be closed except to those v./ho vish to pey for them personall yar with non- Perk
and general Park access should. be by bus to Puerto Ji menez. Ir- there are \'/ays to encouragE:
Park Guards to relocate tnei rfar'nilies to the community outside of Hie Park, then encou rage
them by all means. This suggestion assumes that the Park Administration is moved to the
area and Sirentl becomes ju~t. another Ranger Station (albeit
a large one . perhaps under
subsidy from tour groups) .. When flights are necessary for· the Park, use them also for
inspection overflights (Ule large cost is the t'w'O hour round trip in getting the plane to trle Park,
not the
minutes examining a potential problem) .
. 3. Include in the job description of the Perk guide or natura1isfa sUDst6~!tia1 effort et
eXDlicit DubHe education outside
of the Park, such ilslectures in Ule sC~loclls,
guide service
efft-red to Hie schools for clezzet, public 1ectu~es;n the evening in Puerto Jimenez
d3:1:e rr:::1s, etc.
4. Liberally decorate the ParKboundaries with explanatory signs and some nature traih
, I't h ; "'"n+,' fi ed tree~ '" "d oJ'-'.
~"rr''/> f'X p" ij~ nato" Ii I rr·tl 11 o~ HI·r. h q"'~'; tr' n,",,~ ...r'o.'o C"' ... ",; ... "... t..'r.~.
',. I .
• '..; .... d '.
..) \.ill
J I ..... J '
I.'. ...
V .
'.,"",.1 I . :
guard posts, and sites of p3rticular interest are an ob'.,.ious
~ ~: ;. ,.';
':.- -. -. .
, ' , . ,. .
5. Work 'with mining companies or other O'y/nerS of heavy machinery to improve the roads
right to the P\'lrk
to maximize publ;c and tour group access. For example repair the
bridge betl.,/een Pla~a Blanca and the Park at Rlo Rincon and blade out a::d grave1 HIe la~;t 2 l:::il of
Hie road. The m; n; n9 companies are obv;o!J~;l y professionals at mov; ng enormuus quantities of
riveri ne sedi ments and changi ng the 'vlatercourses of enti re rivers. ! nste~d of saddli ng them
w'ith \'/hitelf./a~;~! eonv; ronmental statements and si11 y anti -daIT:sge regulations i n habitat~; lor:;
since trashed by agriculture, make them pay their taxes by doing real \·/ork to increase access
and val ue onhe areas to be kept pristi ne. The same applies to 10ggi ng concessions in the
Reserves near the Park.
6. When conservation-education minded people appear from the States, Univer;sidad·
Nacional, CATI Eand other places \\Iith the; r pet projects to tryout i n Co~;t8 Rica or its Parks, be.
fi rm in aski ng that instead they take on the more di rected and applied problem of fornenti ng
public i ntere~t and understandi ng of parl~s in particular problem are3~ such as Corcovado.
7. Aggressive1 y encourage tour group operators to make use of the side of Corcovado that i~
adjacent to Hte community, find out what they view as their basic needs, and ",'ork with them to
allow' and heJ p them meet these needs. If they need a special ki nd of buildi ng or
i magi native and aggressive in permitti ng them to construct such a build; ng or develop that
Vihile there is no di red harm in conti nui ng to mai ntai n Si rena as 8 ~ite of major tour
and :-e:::earcrler interest, & major effort should occur to make the sites sucr, as the Los Patos
area, the
RlO Agujas area, the RG Piedras Blancas area, etc. competitively attrac:tive.
in vie'w' of
the vi rtual exti rpation of game ani ma13 in these areas at the moment, it maIJ be difficult in the
fi :-st years, but if the southern part of Hie Park is kept ·free of mi ners, hunters and ranchers.,
the animals will come beck from other parts of the Park. There is a strong and partly justified
fee 1i ng of re~;e nt me nt amo n9 ma ny of t he Co rcovadCl pe rso nne1 agai nst the i nse ns; ti ve ' . . 13 y that
various tour groups and courses have used the Si rena someYlhat croldded facilities and treate:
ttle Perk
Ranger~ 8S
if thelJ were emplolJees ina 1uxury hotel.. There are obvious 'vIays aro,und
this in the form of separate facilities, established protocol as to \. . ork responsi bilities, f!;!lj
i ncreasi ng Hie Qua1ity of tour guide input from Park personnel. These 'w'ays 'w'ill cost money, anO·
it i3 reasonable to expect the tour and course j :1dustry to pickup the bill, but they also.have to
have:: rm g!jid:::~:(:e ilr:d cooperative ackno1illedgment ofthei r role in the development and
survival (If Corcovado.
Along the ~ame lines, it is obvious that the current biobgiJ tour groups in Costa.Rica could
some solid horne-gro'w'n competition. There are obvious II/aidS that the Park Service and U!e
'Worki ng in Hie Parks could favor the deveJopment of t~h competition,as 'We:: as
di rectl'J offer tours 'w'ith the
gOl i,~ to the Fundaci:)il de F'arques
8. Corcovado is a very large place, and it I,y'm never be
to patrol its borders in
det6i 1. HC"deve r, 63 t he next ie:1 t,lee! t-~ roll i n it i ~ 0bvi:) us t h~t the Pe! r k \,/m be bo rde red
81 most enti rel y bId farm3 and forest- management slJstems. These people 'vlm form a near1 iJ
ti mber
~teali r.g
berrier to poaching an;j timber stealing . or e neer1t,1 contir.~ou$ p08chir;g and
threat., de;tendi ng on he'l! they are treated. In addition to the (lbviou~
iila1 ntti ni ng detsl] ed friend] y contact \vHh them . these neighbors can be extremely i mporta nt as
"citizen game 'wudens" or some similar term. It is conspicuous in a number of Coste R;can
parks that there are certai n neighbori ng lando\\/ners \\/ho strongl y discourage honters and there
is little problem 'w'ith poaching along these portions of the park boundaries, as opposed to those
portions of the boundaries adjacent to large n:!nches that permit hunti ng. It \\~ould not even be
outrageous to issue some ki nd of informal badge or other identification papers to neighbors that
'wish to be thought of as aggressivel y con~;ervationist, thereby giv1 ng that
a bit more
clolJt in f:eeDing hunters for example, off of his land and thereby denlJing·them access to the \
9. V1hile it is aga; nst the letter and philosophy of the park la'w's to harvest any object from
:'orcovaco as 'w'ell as any other national park, research and collecting permHs have been and are
issued for 'w'ot-k that clearl y benefits our understandi ng of the biology of a pat~k: as W'ell
biologtJ. In like manner, there are certein kinde; of harvest that can be done from a perk
such as Corcovado tilat increase its c~ances of survival and have no biological impact that is
over ond above the truly natural perturbations and mortaiities that occur. In the
case of Corcova:o, there is one very major poss; bility that \y'i11loom ever larger. As
deforest3tion progresses, there is going to be ever more irlterest in reforestation "vith mixed
s peei es sta nds of val us b1e sloW' - grO'w'i ng he rd'w'oods (e.g., coco bo10, naze re no) n13 pero, 9ua pi nol
rna nu) as "Ie11. as dev·e 10 pi ng pla ntati 0 ns of faste r 9ro\\,'; ng nati ve s peci es (e.9., c~d roa rna rgc
SlJra, pochote, caoba). As deforestation progresses high Quality seed is go; ng to get scarcer boHI
of the eli rni nation of seed tree
3U bseqlJent
and the die;ruption of polH nator 3ys.tems 'w'ith
fail ure of seed set in isolated tree~; in pastures and on roadsides. ·Po place 11 ke
Corcov<s,j,) is an obvious source of the needed seed. It should be either sold for the cost of
1at or or the collector
the labor; the profit to the Park isi n the act of
Corc:c:V::r::/$ c':':ltri bution to social and economic development. !t should be collected under the
supervision of & kOO'v/ledgeable perk biologist ..".ho kno'w's 'when and 'Where rel.fftively small
(H:ough ab$ol ute numbers,
8:jUlt tr~<::~)
tens of tMu~aiids of seeljs = Hie cro~s of one or tlh"O
collected 'viitholJt harm to emle:- Hl~ plant or animal DOpu1:jtion.· Done
such seed collection 'w'm do far less damage trlan a single trail cut for.tolJrist traffic.
It;3 certal n that as Hie Costa Rican parks become ever more conspicuous1y uniqiJe vegetatton
one desc rj bed above \1ill co me to mi nd. The Nati 0 na I Pa r k syste m must have a phi Ioso PhYthat
reme; n~ open to such 00$3i bilities·. There maid even come a dald "then the gold can be extracted by
an as yet unkno'Wn tecflnoloQIJ that has no effect on the system other than to produce ai r spaces
'w'here the gold 'Was; on the other hand, by the time U,e 'w'orld comes to that, it may 'Well have
travelled 'Well beyond the barbarism of vie'Wi ng gold as somethi ng on which to base val ue
10. As the human population gro\\/s to occupy thorough] y the enti re area around the Park .
there will undoubtedly be numerous cases of poaching in which the individual is captured and
hauled in front of a j udg~.Even assumi ng that the la'w's and fi nes are efficient and reasonable
(see above) there is quHe 8different problem. Many park rangers vie\\1 the·mselves, and Quite
correctl y, as policemen~t6 a certai n degree. Yes, it is all fi ne to promote plJblic education, keep
trails open, and repai'r ar:ts of God (fires, landslides), but just as the real 'World and TV teach us,
policeman is at the pi nnacle of his success when he apprehends a lawbreaker . The problem is
that many of the la\u'breskers \1i111ive quite lHerally next door to the Park. An arrest cail very
easil y create a feeli ng of extremel y strong resentment on the pert of the le'w'Dreeker., and
e~;j)eciall ~
so if it
in the loss of hunti ng dogs, fi ne fi rearms, a 'Weeks meat, etc. As near
as \~'e can determine, there is virtually no policy 'Within the Park system directed at
ameliorati n9 this effect through some ki nd of post-arre~t education. W'e 'Would
~i mp1
y poi nt out
that one resentful person can t8use·a.n enormous amount of damage to a national park, 'Witt'l little
effort, by leavi ng gates open, setti ng fi re~;, droppi ng pesticides into a river, spreadi ng lies
about the Park, etc. Perhaps this is an area for judges to be delivering sentences in the form of
x days of labor \10rki ng on a project in the Park, 'With the Park guards, raUler Ulan
~.:jyi ng
a fi r~e
; n colones or spendi ng ti me i n~rison.
11. Janzen ha~; studied and lived in 8 variety of Costa Rican national parks for about half of
each of the past 13
I t is clear to hi m that there are several personnel poliCies associated
'With the Parb that are i n dra~tic need of re\/i~ion. While realizi n9 that some of these are
currentl y under discussion wit hi n the National Park Service, they are mentioned belo\1 to
underli ne thei r ; mportance in this matter.
a. Traditional1:J park di rectors change posts every h/o years or less. It has been normal for
a di recto r to Ieave and. be re placed, 'w'i t h vi rt ua 11 y no co ntact bet'Wee n the i nco mi ng ar:d 0 utgoi ng
di rector. There is obvious1 y &very l&rge need for e month or ,nore of overlap bet'·tleen
successive di rectors. He possi bility srlould also be stror!g1 y considered of a11o\o/i ng an
appropriate person tc remain as a director of e ~pecific park for a very long time, 'with hi:;;
pO$ition be; ng reVle\'ied at 1ntervals; the vel ue in conti fllJ1ty, familiarity and dedication to
development i~ obvi0U3, de3~ite U:e
D. \I{hile some
for maltreatrr:ent oft~e opportunity.
Corwv'ado t;eing one of them,
h~fy'e gr~r.diose
and t,ighly de5Criptive
.ina ~~g~'~e ~t· ~1'~ ~~., no ne·'ot\h~;·C~st~ 'Ri'c~~ la rge· pa:~h' ~a\le· d'etai li~ "viHtte il rna nage rne nt- (=
.,... .. . '.
operation) plans for specific classes of problems} plans that are to be conti nuousl y follo\. . ed b!J a
c:f park di rectors, Ccrcovado desperate] y need~. slJch a plan and 'Jt the present ti me
dues not have one (though in re;:;pom;e to the gold mi ner crisis) a sort
of operations flo'w' sfleet '
'vias dr8'y/n up).
c. The livi ng eonditions for most park rangers are severe1 y impoverished as compared ""iitr,
their cheerful and item-rich homes in distant towns. W'hile obviously a park ranger has the
opportunity to fix up his or her livi ng quarters as he or she \. . ishes} 'vle wonder if tMre are not
explicit 'w'sys that life during their 20-odd day stint ofrluty in the park could not be made more
comfortable? Park
are not soldiers living in 8 b8rrack~ and expected to act like anb.
They must learn to \y'ork i ndependentl y and make·.decisions on behalf of the Park rather Ulan
running about in neryous clusters} each looking to the other to make what malJ turn out to
be a
\aong decision,
In concl usion 'We offer the summary at the. begi nn; ng of this report. We feel strongl y that it
for the National Park Service spec;f;call~} end various relevant other government egencie~ in
genera1, to develop the actual detailed plan that is follo,'yled in the next several months and years,
They knoW' the costs and possibilities far better than 'We do, Will it 'w'ork? If Costa Rica 'w'ants it
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