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2010-11-09 | project

Concessions of services in protected areas of Costa Rica incorporate methodology created by EfD-CA

Methodology based on environmental economics principles, to be replicated in wildlife protected areas

For Spanish version/Para la versión en español

By Joselyne Hoffmann

The concession of non-essential services offered at
Costa Rica’s wildlife protected areas (PAs) is one of the alternatives pursued
by the administration of these areas to obtain additional resources and open
spaces for the involvement of organized local groups.

Entities such as the National System of Conservation
Areas (SINAC), the La Amistad-Pacifico Conservation Area (ACLA-P) and The
Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Costa Rica, have expressed that concessions improve
the quality of the service offered to visitors and release protected
area staff from activities which are not inherent to their positions; and thus,
enabling them to devote this time to tasks such as control, protection and
environmental education, among others.

According to Sandra Jiménez, financial management
coordinator at SINAC, concessions were established in article 39 of the
Biodiversity Act No. 7788 in 1998. At that time, SINAC tried to implement the
process of concessions but, due to an appeal before the Constitutional Court,
implementation did not advance until 2008, when the positive vote of the appeal
was received.

Jiménez mentioned that, in 2009, Guiselle Méndez, SINAC’s
executive director, appointed a commission to initiate the process and develop
the concessions procedure in the SINAC. At the same time, the ACLA-P’s
administration proposed the Chirripo National Park (PNCh) as a pilot area,
since the conservation area’s infrastructure was suitable for concessions and the
technical team encouraged concessions.

"CATIE services were contracted from the very
beginning due to its high professional level for this type of study,"
stressed Jiménez. She added that the methodology of costs for non-essential
services is a complement to the methodology for setting rates in PAs elaborated
by CATIE in 2004, and used by SINAC since then.

The study requested by SINAC to the Environment for
Development in Central America (EfD-CA) initiative at CATIE estimates costs for
non-essential goods and services to grant as concessions at the PAs. The report
shows the results of the joint work of ACLA-P, TNC, PNCh authorities and key
informants from the protected area’s surrounding community.

"Based on the
results, a handbook of the methodology for collecting data to develop a costing
of the goods and services to be granted and its application to the PNCh case was
created,” said María Angélica Naranjo, EfD-CA researcher. "We included
estimates for room and board at Base Crestones and Llano Bonito stations,
rental of recreational equipment, transportation of luggage and materials, and a
grocery store.”

Naranjo added that an Excel tool allows recalculating
and readjusting costs for non-essential services. Also, as a baseline for the
analysis of possible impacts of implementing concessions, a diagnosis was conducted
in the communities near the PNCh. “This region presents low income and
differences in the distribution of wealth; historically, it has been devoted to
agriculture and livestock, but today the tourism activity related to the PNCh
has allowed diversifying the income of households," explained Naranjo.

Some recommendations suggested by EfD-CA experts are the
following:

  • PA administration
    should determine the amount charge for the concession and provide the
    conditions to offer high quality services, effectively and safely
  • concessions
    are charged depending on the number of visitors, to easily monitor revenues and
    reduce risks for the concessionaire and the PA
  • studies of
    demand for services determine cost-effectiveness (concession may not be
    feasible for all PA)
  • modification
    of rates takes into account visitors’ capacity, willingness to pay and
    appreciation, to avoid discontent among the users of the service
  • ample consultation
    with stakeholders involved in each PA to get feedback from the recommendations
    and increase possibilities for implementation

Jiménez stressed that the methodology manual,
estimates and diagnosis are a great contribution to SINAC, because they can be
applied to other wildlife protected areas and be tools for obtaining information
to negotiate with people interested in operating non-essential services.

“Recommendations are being incorporated into the
process. Costs data are being adjusted according to the latest version of the
characterization of the Chirripo National Park's non-essential services, for
their inclusion in the call for bids,” said Jiménez. “A workshop with the
wildlife protected areas that have their management or tourism plans approved has
been scheduled, to prioritize in which areas non-essential services concessions
will begin next year.”

More information
María Angélica Naranjo
Researcher, EfD-AC CATIE
Tel.+ (506) 2558-2379
mnaranjo@catie.ac.cr