San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

How Do You Apply for Forest Protection Payments?

I cannot help but get excited every time you report about the Costa Rican government’s funding for forest conservation projects (TT, June 15). But this seems to be a private party by invitation only.

How can we reapply for a Forest Protection Certificate for conserving 500 acres of trees, a crucial support our family land lost seven years ago because of “reassigned priorities?”

Luis Aragon


It is an exciting program, especially in a country like Costa Rica, which is often heralded for its green image and environmental foresight.

But the Forest Protection Certificate you speak of no longer exists. The new “priorities” you mention resulted from passage of the 1996 Forestry Law, which revamped this system, and instituted the now well-known Environmental Services Payment Program (ESPP). The program is funded largely by a 3.5% tax on the sale of gasoline and diesel in the country.

“The landowner agrees to keep his property forested, and the state pays him for the services this land provides,” explained Gilmar Navarrete, an engineer with the National Forest Financing Fund (FONAFIFO).

Unfortunately, this year’s deadline for submitting applications has passed, so prospective applicants will have to wait until March 2008 to enter the program. In the meantime, Navarrete said, those interested in the program should go to the fund’s Internet site,, which includes a section in English.

All of the details of the payment program can be found on the site, under the “Environmental Services” category, and the “Decrees and Manuals” option. Click on the 2007 procedures manual for complete details of the program. You can also fill out a pre-application form by clicking on “Processes and Requirements for ESP” and scrolling down to “ESPP Forms.” Phone numbers for some of FONAFIFO’s regional offices are located in that section.

In brief, any landowner, resident or otherwise, can enroll in the program, under one of two categories: Forest Protection, and Reforestation.

For those wishing to protect and receive payment for an already-existing forest on their property, the minimum size is two hectares, and the maximum 300 hectares. Payment is $320 per hectare, distributed at a rate of 20% per year over a five-year period.

For those reforesting their property, the minimum size is one hectare, and the maximum 300 hectares. Reforestation is limited to certain species of trees – a list of which can be obtained on the FONAFIFO Web site.

Because of the importance of allowing adequate time for reforestation, Navarrete explains that this program involves a longer-term, 15-year contract, and payment is $816 per hectare, to be distributed 46% in the first year, then 6% a year until year 10.

The forest is to remain undeveloped and reforesting for 15 years, at which point the contract can be renewed, and payments can resume.

Why is there a maximum of 300 hectares?

“We want this program not to be dominated by a few, but used by all, so we’ve set a maximum size per landowner,” he said.

The printed application and map of your property can be turned in to any of FONAFIFO’s regional offices, scattered throughout the country. For more information on the program, see the Internet site or call 257-8475.

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