By Madeline Crocker
Neotropical migratory birds inspired an international agreement between Costa Rica and the United States last month. These birds migrate back and forth between the United States and Canada and Central and South America. They carry out important reproductive functions in the north and migrate south during the northern winter months, where food is more plentiful.
The dual importance of both regions in the lives of these birds brought about a “sister parks” partnership, signed between Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and 12 other U.S. National Park System units in the upper Midwest. SINAC is Costa Rica’s national parks administrator and oversees 150 protected areas, including 26 national parks. This was a three and a half year process and was made possible by a grant from Rotary International’s District 5960.
The idea of a “sister park” utilizes public outreach to shine light on the migration of neotropical migratory birds in hopes of protecting their habitat. Both sister parks mutually benefit each other through education, volunteering, and conservation efforts in this partnership.
Christopher Stein, who signed on behalf of the 14 National Parks units and is the superintendent for Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin said, “National Parks, both in the USA and in Costa Rica, are well known entities. By taking advantage of this public relations fact, we hope to raise the visibility of the plight of our shared Neotropical Migratory Bird species.” They are now determining what the possibilities of the partnership will include, one being the sharing of park staff. In August, Guido Saborio from Area de Conservacion Osa (SINAC-ACOSA) will travel to Minnesota and Wisconsin and learn about three of the new “sister parks” in the region. “This year, we hope to develop an ‘Action Plan’ that will provide us further guidance on collaboration” says Stein.
Manuel Ramirez, the executive director of Osa Conservation, said that Osa Conservation played a role in streamlining the efforts of the agreement to make it come about more quickly and will also make its facilities available for the training of both Costa Rican and US national park staff. Ramirez stated that habitat destruction is their biggest threat for the neotropical migratory birds. This is why Osa Conservation actively protects over 4,000 hectares of land outside Costa Rica’s Corcovado and Piedras Blancas National Park, both of which are under this “sister parks” agreement. These private conservation lands help create important biological corridors with the parks and many species depend on their forest connectivity and protection.
This “sister parks” agreement not only will address habitat protection in the tropics, but will also raise awareness for two biologically diverse regions and encourage international conservation cooperation.