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Wildlife

Conservation Principles within the TECOCO Law: An Alternative to Coastal Development

By Gerardo Chaves Cordero
School of Biology, University of Costa Rica

At the foundation of the Coastal Community Territories Law, known as the TECOCOS law (Law 18148), is the recognition of the right to live in the maritime land zone for the people who have lived in it for years. This article focuses on the particular feature of how the TECOCOS law seeks to convert some National Wildlife Refuges into Coastal Community Territories. This is a sensitive issue, given that Costa Ricans have a great mistrust for the conservation areas that have managed to integrate into the country's system of protected areas. In my opinion, this discussion should focus on whether or not TECOCO can achieve conservation objectives proposed for the National Wildlife Refuges or even improve them.  

The regulation of the Wildlife law (Law 7317) defines a National Wildlife Refuge as a protected area that preserves, conserves and manages the habitat, plants and wildlife. This conservation is achieved through management activities that are considered as usage permits covering agricultural, tourism, scientific and housing activities among others. One of the purposes of the TECOCOS law is "to contribute to the sustainable management of the coastal ecosystems, so as to ensure their productivity, diversity, integrity and wise use of natural resources, in the present and future generations." Under the TECOCOS law the inhabitants of the new area are required to "collaborate with MINAET and other competent authorities in the protection and sustainable use of the environment, the State Natural Heritage, biodiversity and marine fishery resources in the coastal community territories.

Moreover, the occupation of the TECOCOs doesn't mean that a property title will be granted to the present inhabitants of these state lands. What is offered is the opportunity for territorial concessions allowed today in the maritime land law, except that preference is given to historical local residents over other applicants. Coastal communities that gathered in different workshops to develop the law unanimously requested that property titles are not offered. What they request is that concession holders for lands in a TECOCO area be people with roots in the area and show that they have not made a negative impact where they live. The law has the mission to encourage the best management practices that have occurred in the coastal zone, ensuring that those people who remain have adequately protected the resources.

As a result of this analysis, I hope it is clear to the reader that the TECOCO law is pro-environment, but unlike other strategies implemented so far in the country, has at its center the native resident and his cultural background, which has enabled people to live in the coastal environment without damaging it.


 

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