For Immediate ReleaseCosta Rica's Lapa Rios Ecolodge signs 900-acre conservation easementMay 6, 2013, San Jose, Costa Rica â Last week, Karen and John Lewis, the visionary founders of Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica, celebrated the realization of a conservation dream that will result in the permanent protection of more than 900 acres of virgin rainforest in the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically rich regions in Central America.
Twenty-plus years ago the Lewises liquidated their assets in Minnesota to finance the purchase and preservation of 1,040 acres of virgin rainforest in Costa Rica and to build a small, supporting ecotourism project. Post university, they had both worked for the US Peace Corps in Kenya, where their conservation and sustainable tourism ethic first took hold. âIn 1990, we wanted to find a large enough piece of property that would make a significant contribution to forest conservation,â says Karen Lewis, about their decision to focus their energies on the Osa.They had big ideas but still weren't sure how to get from A to B. Determined to achieve conservation goals in a manner that would involve and engage the local community, they set about building Lapa Rios Ecolodge, situated on roughly 10 acres overlooking the Golfo Dulce, and turning the rest of the property into a private nature reserve. The lodge quickly became a leader in ecotourism, employing locals as lodge staff and guides while helping to fund and support conservation initiatives. The Lapa Rios Reserve, some 900 acres in size, provides an important buffer for neighboring Corcovado National Park and serves as a wildlife corridor for the incredible array of species endemic to the region. Because of its intense biodiversity, the Osa is one of the last strongholds of the jaguar in Central America, and is home to all four Costa Rican monkey species, including the squirrel monkey, white-faced capuchin, mantled howler and spider monkey. Other Reserve inhabitants include the three-toed sloth, tamandua anteater, Baird's tapir, poison dart frogs, 350+ bird species, as well as the venomous fer de lance and bushmaster snakes. The Lewises wanted to take something personal and make it permanent and everlasting, regardless of who holds title to the land or owns the ecolodge business. That's where the conservation easement comes in. Undertaken in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Costa Rican land conservation organization CEDARENA, the easement turns the Lewises personal commitment into rainforest conservation with a binding agreement that ensures the Lapa Rios Reserve is preserved in perpetuity. The easement comes with strict guidelines around land use. It prohibits all extractive activities, such as mining, forestry and hunting, as well as further building expansion, even putting a cap on trail construction to a maximum of 15,000 metres (there are currently 10 km of trail in the Reserve.) At the same time the easement encourages both scientific and educational activities on the reserve, which fits well within the Lewis' goal of setting a conservation example and their guiding motto: âNo matter how you cut it, a rainforest left standing is worth more.ââWe hope that this conservation easement will set a precedent across the land, even globally, using land for other than extractive purposes,â says Lewis. âThis signing is what we've been working towards from the very beginning and now I feel we have truly accomplished what we first intended.âAbout Lapa Rios EcolodgeLapa Rios Ecolodge is an upscale, award winning 16-bungalow ecolodge protecting over 1,000 acres of rainforest on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, an area prized for its biodiversity and soon to be named World Heritage Site. The more than 60 staff members are from the local wilderness area, and environmental education is fundamental to the employees and international guests' experience. Lapa Rios is certified by the country's Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program and was the first ecolodge to receive the highest award of âfive leaves.' In April 2013 the owners signed a conservation easement that protects over 900 acres of land surrounding Lapa Rios in perpetuity. Lapa Rios is also a member of the Zeitz Foundation's Long Run Destinations. For more information, visit www.laparios.com.-30-Media Contacts:Deirdre Campbell, Tartan Group: 250-592-3838, 250-882-9199 (cell) or email@example.com Brian Cant, Tartan Group: 250-592-3838 or firstname.lastname@example.org