Source AP ©

US pays for Costa Rican forests conservation

Costa Rica will receive US$26 million (€18.3 million) from the U.S. government and environmental groups in exchange for the country spending the same amount on tropical forest conservation.

As part of the U.S. Tropical Forest Conversation Act, the United States will spend US$12.6 million (€9 million) to buy back Costa Rica's debt at discounted rates. Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy will each contribute US$1.26 million (€890,000).

Together, with interest, the money will be enough to pay down US$26 million of the Central American country's debt, according to the agreement.

"Costa Rica is teeming with natural beauty, biodiversity and threatened species," said Stephanie Meeks, The Nature Conservancy's chief executive. "And as an increasingly popular tourist and retirement destination, it faces increasing development pressure."

Begun in 1998, the forest conservation program has provided about US$135 million (€95 million) to 11 countries, including Panama, El Salvador, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

According to the agreement, Costa Rica must spend the money on forest conservation over the next 16 years. Areas targeted include the Pacific coast's Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park and a number of endangered species, and Totuguero on the Caribbean.

Costa Rica owes about US$90 million (€63 million) to the U.S., according to Finance Minister Guillermo Zuniga.