Conservation director seeks funds to buy land already in parks

The head of the nation’s conservation system told lawmakers Thursday that the agency needs extensive funding to pay for private land incorporated into protected areas.

The man is Rafael Gutierrez Rojas, executive director of the  Sistema de Áreas de Conservación.  The agency has responsibility for public parks and other protected areas. He was testifying before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Ambiente. He was supporting a bill that he said would provide permanent financing for the conservation system.

Gutierrez said that in 2012 there were 12 judicial decisions against the state ordering it to compensate owners whose lands have been incorporated into the parks and reserves. He said his agency should receive about $160 million a year to handle these expropriations. It now gets a small percentage of that amount.

One such case involved owners of property at Parque Nacional Las Baulas on the Pacific coast.

They said last week that they were seeking international arbitration because the government has kept them and their property in limbo for years.

They are seeking compensation and the initial figure that did not cover all the damages alleged was $49 million.  Gutierrez told lawmakers that the state has paid for only 50 percent of the land at Las Baulas,

Once the government says that land will be expropriated, owners cannot build or develop it. But they may wait years for payment.

In some cases, the state has not purchased nearly 80 percent of the land that is designated for a national park, he said.

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