Save our Park! Oh, and the turtles, too.

Ai??Playa Grande, the turtle's primary nesting beach, is dark. But is anybody worried about the lights next door? Photo by Dave Sherwood

Legislation to downgrade Costa Rica’s Las Baulas National Park to a refuge has been shelved – at least for now. The country’s transnational environmental lobby is sighing relief.

But what about the turtles?

Downgrading a park is admittedly poor form – and sets an awful precedent. The reality, however, is that the critically endangered leatherback doesn’t need aAi??lousy paper park – it needs comprehensive, holistic management that looks at all threats, not just those presented by a group of surly real estate investors on shore.

Of course, as with most environmental debates, this one is complex. There Ai??are no simple solutions. Las Baulas National Park harbors the single most important leatherback Ai??nesting beach in Central America. And species’ populations have plummeted 97% in 30 Ai??years. But the gargantuan legal battle required to expropriate private beachfront property inside theAi??park is a distraction.

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While we protest, bicker and carry on, time is running out for the leatherback. Last year, just 30 nested here, down by half from the year before and 1,500 two decades ago (before the ‘park’ was established, incidentally).

Unlike signing a petition on Facebook, navigating government bureaucracy and ineptitude and imposing order on the hundreds of absentee investors in neighboring Tamarindo whoAi??pump fecal matter and shine lights (see above) into the leatherback’s bedroom orAi??mitigating sea turtle bycatch in vast international waters requires real commitmentAi??- and doesn’t package well in a bulk mailer or mass email.

Too bad for the turtles – but at least the beach is pretty.

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