On October 29, one of Costa Rica’s leading environmentalists, Mario Boza passed away after a nearly fifty-year career devoted to nature conservation. Boza was co-founder, along with Alvaro Ugalde, of the country’s National Parks System (SINAC) created in 1970.
He won the J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation from the World Wildlife Fund, was a trusted advisor to presidents and the country’s first National Park Service chief.
In the weeks following Boza’s death, some former colleagues and conservationists are organizing to formally honor his long-standing contributions to Costa Rica.
As co-founders of SINAC, Alvaro Ugalde and Mario Boza laid the foundations for nature conservation across the country and a now thriving ecotourism industry.
In round numbers, a third of Costa Rica is legally protected in the form of national parks, reserves, wildlife, and wildlife corridors. Before the Covid, some attracted 1 million tourists each year and represented around 10% of the national economy.
An alarm was sounded by the SF Chronicle Foreign Service in a December 2000 article, however, Trouble in Paradise / Critics say lack of protection endangers Costa Rica’s famous nature reserves for which Boza was interviewed:
“Mario Boza, who is the co-founder of the national park system and a conservation legend in Costa Rica, says failure to reinvest enough tourism dollars in conservation has also caused the deterioration of many nature reserves. ”
Until his health deteriorated this year, Boza put forward a management plan as a practical solution.
“If the government adopted its management plan, Costa Rica would benefit from a guaranteed visit by nature lovers from all over the world, while preserving its natural wonders for the long-term benefit of Costa Ricans,” said fellow environmentalist John Tresemer, “Mario is the guy who gave Costa Rica its ‘green’ image, which has wonderfully helped tourism, the economy and environmental health.
Tresemer worked alongside Boza and Ugalde to establish what is now Cocos Island National Park in 1978 and later Whale Marine National Park (Parque Marino Ballena) in 1989-90.
Another former Boza colleague who recently retired from MINAE, Miguel Madrigal Hernandez, says Boza and Ugalde should be declared “Benemérito de la Patria” for their working lives.
Madrigal is supporting a National Marine Reserve in honor of Boza and Ugalde surrounding the Osa Peninsula, a project he and Tresemer helped Mario Boza bring to then-MINAE chief Carlos Manuel Rodriguez in 2019. A project bill named in honor of Ugalde was introduced by the National Assembly.
“You only need the support of the leadership of Minae,” to achieve this, said Madrigal.
“[Mario Boza’s] the last major wish was for the government to implement its management plan and create the Marine Protected Area between Ballena Marine National Park and Corcovado National Park, including the Térraba / Sierpe estuary in order to protect the one of the most biologically diverse and prolific marine areas in the world, Tresemer explained.
“I hope the Costa Rican government will be as wise and respectful as Don Mario.”