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Debt for Nature Agreement to Conserve Costa Rica's Forests

Contact: USAID Press Office,202-712-4320; Public Information,202-712-4810

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 /Standard Newswire/ -- An agreement to reduce Costa Rica's debt by nearly $26 million over the next 16 years was reached by the governments of the United States and Costa Rica, the Central Bank of Costa Rica as well as U.S.-based Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy. In return, the Central Bank of Costa Rica has committed to pay these funds to support grants to non-governmental organizations and other groups that protect and restore the country's tropical forests.


This debt-for-nature program allows eligible developing countries to reduce concessional debt owed the United States while generating funds to conserve forests. Forged under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) of 1998 the program is jointly managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. State Department.


The debt reduction was made possible by a $12.6 million contribution by the U.S. government and a combined donation of more than $2.5 million from Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy. The reduced debt comes from old USAID loans to Costa Rica.


The funds will help conserve some of Costa Rica's vital forests. The forest ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula, one of the world's most species-rich locations, includes the country's largest population of scarlet macaw, an endangered bird. The La Amistad Biological Reserve, home to Central America's largest cloud forest, shelters 65 percent of Costa Rica's indigenous peoples and generates over half of Costa Rica's fresh water.


Forests in and around Tortuguero, Costa Rica's third most visited national park and Maquenque Wildlife Refuge, support Costa Rica's last remaining great green macaws and permit the altitudinal migration of birds and mammals such as the quetzal, bell bird, jaguar, and tapir. The dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest north of Rincon de la Vieja permit many animals to adjust to changing climate conditions. Water resources on Nicoya Peninsula are dependent on the health of fragile, fragmented forest ecosystems in and around Diria National Park.


Including Costa Rica, the TFCA program has been used 12 times under the Bush administration-twice in Panama as well as in Belize, Botswana, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru and the Philippines and once under the previous administration in Bangladesh in 2000. Together, these TFCA debt-for-nature efforts will generate more than $163 million to protect tropical forests during the next 10 to 25 years.


For more information on USAID and its environmental programs visit