After a long process, residents of the community of Ostional celebrated a historic day on February 8th, when the President of the Republic, Luis Guillermo Solis, signed the Ostional Wildlife Refuge Law in the town’s community hall.
For the activity, he was accompanied by the Minister of Environment and Energy, Edgar Gutierrez, the legislator from the Liberation party, Juan Marin, the legislator from Broad Front party, Suray Carrillo, and the president of the Ostional Integral Development Association, Magdalena Vega.
The new law protects those residents of the beaches of Ostional, Pelada and Guiones who have been living in the area for more than 10 years and allows for there to be private property. However, the president ruled out the possibility that this law would unlock the door for new constructions in the area.
“It does not say that all restrictions are lifted so that they can start building hotels, despite how much work these generate. Residents are not being given permission to unduly exploit the resources. They know how to do it and have the support of the University of Costa Rica, as they have had,” said the president.
Law Project 18939 was approved during the first reading in December and was voted on by legislators during the second reading on Thursday, January 14th, with 41 votes in favor and 1 opposed.
The Voice of Guanacaste consulted the Minister of Environment regarding how property taxes will be defined for residents of the refuge. However, this will not be established until after the management plan for Ostional is finalized.
“The management plan is what is going to regulate how we are going to inhabit this area. That is a good question that I have not [asked]. Because the Maritime Land Zone falls under municipal jurisdiction, it is the municipality that determines the canon taxes, but that is why the management plan must be completed. We are learning. We are taking a first step here in history,” the minister explained.
The management plan is a tool that will define the areas of the refuge where buildings can be made for the inhabitants (who demonstrate that they have lived there for more than 10 years) and where they cannot get involved at all.
Now with the new law, the director of DINADECO, Harys Regidor, explained that a budget is being set up to build a new shelter for workers from the Integral Development Association, both to use and to conserve the eggs.
This signature is a breath of relief for residents of the community of Ostional who have lived within the refuge since before its creation in 1983.
For community leader Magdalena Vega, the signature was a result of the joint efforts of neighbors and perseverance.
“This law guarantees us permanence. I hope that no one forgets this date, since we have been able to achieve our legal security,” Vega remarked.
For her part, the Broad Front legislator, Suray Carrillo, concluded that Ostional should be a model community to apply this format in other communities in the country.
Mayor Suray Carrillo
The new legislation aims to establish a special legal regime for the Ostional Wildlife Refuge that allows regulation of land use, the reasonable and sustainable use of natural resources through active community participation and provides legal security to those who currently occupy refuge lands.
“What we are doing today is actually opening a workspace that could be repeated many times in the country, in which the right of communities, many of which have existed before the conservation areas themselves, are recognized so they continue expropriating resources proportionally,” said Carrillo.