In the forest world, nothing surpasses the beauty, biodiversity and inherent value of a primary forest. In a demonstration of great vision, Costa Rica decided to protect and safeguard for future generations a significant portion of the forested land within its borders, including several different forest types. Among these protected biomes is the Dry Tropical Forest, home to the most commercially valuable tree species in the region
Unfortunately, by the time people had become aware of the vital importance of environmental conservation, much of the damage had already been done. So much destruction has taken place in some areas that, essentially, there is nothing left to preserve! In precisely these areas, therefore, we must proactively go beyond conservation and consider environmental restoration, prioritizing – as much as possible – the recuperation of those forest species most at risk of extinction.
The history of San Lorenzo, a severely degraded former cattle ranch and site of this eco-reforestation and environmental restoration project since 1991, is typical of the tragedy that befell hundreds of thousands of hectares that, until just a few decades ago, were home to dry tropical forests. These forests were indiscriminately eliminated to make way for grazing land in the second half of the 20th century.
Iguana in a young guayacán real tree
Landscape typical of ranching operations in the province of Guanacaste
Recognizing this reality, we can ask ourselves the following:
What does the future hold for these areas, whether small, mid-size or large, which have already lost their forests?
- Will they be condemned to remain pastures forever?
- Will we have to wait for decades, maybe centuries, for natural reforestation to occur, starting with limited and gradually improving biodiversity?
Or maybe …
- Realizing the urgency of the current environmental situation, and our responsibility for it, do we have the will and the capacity to intervene actively, accelerating and enriching the process of environmental restoration by planting native tree species, some of which – such as the guayacán real (Guaiacum sanctum,) – are severely endangered? By doing this, can we contribute to the preservation of these species?
The eco-reforestation and environmental restoration project at San Lorenzo is a bet that we will choose the last option. Since 1991, we have worked non-stop in what has been a fascinating, valuable and immensely gratifying experience.
More than 20 years after beginning the project, we can ask ourselves several questions.
- Have we helped to accelerate or enrich the environmental restoration process in the project area?
- Have we significantly contributed to the protection of the guayacán real?
We want this web site to answer both questions. Through this site, we hope to share this experience, with its hits and its misses, its lessons, and our observations, doubts and reflections. We hope to motivate similar initiatives elsewhere and provide support to those who walk a similar path.
In what way is a project like this relevant? In our opinion, this question leads to another;
Does civil society, and the common citizen, have the opportunity to contribute actively to the resolution of the grave environmental problems facing our planet? Can a common citizen contribute to environmental restoration through the planting of endangered native forest species on their own properties, in their gardens, in local parks, roadsides, and the like, and through this action generate a series of environment benefits that will lead to the prevention of the extinction of these species?
In other words, can we go beyond what we have achieved with conservation in officially protected areas and embark on the restoration of non-protected, degraded areas as a complement to other efforts? In this way, can the common citizen participate as protagonist in this urgent restoration work?
Do we want to see our national parks and other protected areas become “islands” surrounded by devastation? Do we want a future where people have to go to a national park to see a guayacán real, or a cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), or mora (Maclura tinctoria) and the wildlife associated with these species? To prevent this, we think that the answer to our previous questions must be ‘yes’. That is precisely what we have concluded, and this is the idea behind San Lorenzo.
In its eco-reforestation phase, this project saw the planting of a wide variety of species native to the tropical dry forest. Priority was given, however, to the species most symbolic of this type of forest. This species, the renowned guayacán real, is the one that is most endangered and most in need of preservation efforts.
In what is surely a very special characteristic of this project, the guayacán real trees that have been planted in San Lorenzo are almost entirely sprouted from the seeds of one enormous specimen. This tree has a name; it is called Magón. This large tree – with an average diameter of 85 cm, much larger than average trees of this species – is an extraordinary specimen of an extraordinary species.
We know of no other guayacán real of the size of Magón. This tree is clearly very old; we estimate it could be as old as 1,000 years. Magón is simply one of the oldest, if not the oldest, living beings in Costa Rica. In San Lorenzo, we are preserving the descendants of this extraordinary tree, which in turn continues to contribute its seeds to the preservation of its own species!
View of part of the project
Our greatest wish is that news of this experience will stimulate and motivate the development elsewhere of similar initiatives of ecological reforestation and environmental restoration. Other initiatives can capitalize on the experience of San Lorenzo as a pioneer in this area.
In a very specific fashion, we hope that this information will serve as an invitation for others to persevere in their efforts, as the road is not easy. Much damage has been done to our planet with the destruction of its forests; many areas have suffered as San Lorenzo has suffered, and are now not suitable habitats for the trees that once covered them. It is our responsibility to help nature, with our love and our perseverance, retake those areas.
“Guayacán Real Lane”
Rodolfo y Juan González
We hope you find your visit to this site both interesting and productive.
With gratitude and appreciation for all who honor us with their visit,
Rodolfo González Suárez, Engineer
San José, Costa Rica