Illar Muul, PhD
ICR continues with the strategy of ecologically and economically sustainable development to conserve and restore tropical rainforests. ICR has also been consulted by conservation groups in the USA and Europe to develop generic conservation strategies applicable to temperate forests, based on our experiences in the tropics.
Our approach is based on economics. Since rainforests are usually replaced by economic development, we attempt to replace or preclude ecologically unsustainable development by providing examples of economically attractive and ecologically sustainable development, and reforestation. We do this through developing low-impact nature tourism, low-density rainforest residences in former pastureland by value-added reforestation, and rainforest beef which increases profits to farmers through reforestation of pastureland, and for value-added land use. These approaches seem at first glance to be counterintuitive. But, our experience over the last 20 years has shown that deforestation has been slowed or halted in our demonstration areas (especially in Yunnan, China), new government protected areas have been added (especially in Ghana and Malaysia), and private individuals have become engaged in conservation activities (especially in Costa Rica and Peru; one of our clients in Peru has over 1 million acres of rainforest on the Amazon under his management).
Yet, our challenge remains to obtain sufficient funding for a larger scale demonstration program which would be so convincing that the tide of deforestation would be substantially reduced and even halted or reversed. In many cases preservationists have reviewed our proposals negatively because they want no development and believe that no form of development can be ecologically sustainable. So, while we squabble among ourselves, the tropical rainforests continue to decline. We hope you, as a potential supporter, would favor the practical approach which is already showing some success.
In 2007, we had many challenges as well as new opportunities. ICR has shifted from mainly consultation and training activities for government and private clients to focusing on development of our own demonstration model area in Costa Rica: Carara Conservation Area (CCA). CCA was purchased in August 2006 by ICR’s subsidiary, Integrated Conservation Enterprises, S.A.
The development of the CCA model is aimed at demonstrating a variety of economically and ecologically sustainable ways to conserve and reclaim tropical rainforests. These include forest reclamation using income from “Rainforest Real Estate,” “Rainforest Beef,” “Rainforest Products,” and our traditional “Rainforest Tourism.”
Through rainforest reclamation, ICR aims to re-connect isolated “islands” of original forest, now surrounded by agricultural land, to the original forest of Carara National Park. Neighboring land owners have also adopted this strategy based on expected benefits. The reclaimed forest will form “biological corridors” which will help preserve “biological diversity” in the isolated islands of original forest, and also in Carara National Park, which is also a larger, but still an isolated “island.”
The best scenario for conservation of species diversity in Costa Rica would be to re-connect all of the national parks with biological corridors of reclaimed forests. But, in many areas rapidly developing real estate will make such re-connections impossible in the future. That is why this model is so important. Through economically attractive forest reclamation, permanent real estate easements could preclude wide-spread, high density development in ecologically important or unique areas.
Existing and New Projects
The CCA attracted many important visitors in 2007. They included potential donors and investors, and internationally known conservation leaders. We have proceeded with a surveyor and engineer to segregate home sites and located a private road to provide access.
In February, CCA was visited by Michael and Maike Sweatman. Michael is an investment banker. In the late 1980’s, he worked for the World Bank and was very active in the World Wilderness Leadership group. Michael and Maurice Strong, former Finance Minister of Canada, presented their concept of a “Green Bank” at the World Wilderness Congress in 1987 in Colorado. The “Green Bank” was conceived to support ecologically sustainable development, as prescribed by the U.N. Special Committee on Sustainable Development. Later Michael worked at the World Resources Institute.
He still has strong interests in conservation and is very active in Africa. He and his colleagues have developed a concept of a “Conservancy” of private land owners who support ecologically sustainable economic activities, thus helping conserve habitats for wildlife in Namibia.
In Costa Rica he met with several owners of large properties in areas near CCA to explain his ideas. We have now an informal “Conservancy” of land owners in the vicinity of CCA totaling over 3000 acres. We hope to formalize this Conservancy and achieve permanent conservation easements on their properties. Over time we hope to develop “biological corridors” that reconnect isolated forest areas on these properties with Carara National Park.
Michael also gave us sound “business” advice to strengthen the management strategy to develop CCA. We learned a lot during this short visit and are very grateful.
Other visitors include Dan and Norma Conner, Katherine J. Hinman, William Blackard, Billy Shreve (real restate developer), Fred C. Brand (ICR’s Chief Operations Officer), and Jing Muul (ICR’s Secretary Treasurer). Donations of time and funding from these individuals helped ICR continue developing CCA and to meet the annual mortgage payment. Billy is helping us to identify real estate developers with a “green heart.” Other donors of funding include Professor B. Elizabeth Horner, Dr. Roger Soles, and Mike Michael. To all we are most grateful.
ICR has continued in an advisory capacity to help other conservation projects in Costa Rica, including our first project: “Rainmaker Mountain Conservation Project” which includes about 1500 acres of primary forest and provides water to large agricultural areas at lower elevations, especially during the dry season.
ICR also helped Quepos Hot springs, owned by Mike Michael, to survey areas for a future canopy walkway. Mike owns about 2000 acres of beautiful primary rainforest, near Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park.
A new supporter of ICR, Jeff Downing, created for us a very attractive brochure for our “Tropical Rainforest Residences.” This is available on our website (www.incores.org - click on Eco-Acres).
We are pleased also to welcome a fund-raiser, Elena Williamson Rockefeller. Elena visited CCA and hopes to obtain support for our many planned projects.
In August, Dr. Illar Muul was an invited speaker at the annual “Forest University” held at a privately owned conservation area north of Toronto, Canada. Over 100 ethnic Estonians attended, including speakers from Estonia. One of the attendees, Vaado Sarapuu, is the owner of the largest overseas Estonian newspaper “Eesti Elu,” and an internet news service, mainly for overseas Estonians. Vaado published several pro-bono advertisements and articles for us. He also made a video interviewing Dr. Muul regarding ICR’s goals and strategy which is available on internet (www.eesti.ca).
Articles in Eesti Elu attracted a lot of attention, including a new supporter for the ICR projects in Costa Rica, Dr. Illar Tenno, DVM. The Tenno family visited CCA in December. Dr. Tenno has extensive experience in embryo transplantation and artificial insemination. With his involvement, we hope to proceed with the “rainforest beef” project. Our goal is to revolutionize beef production in the wet tropics: doubling income for the farmers by using hybrids of a newly introduced species, the gaur (Bos gaurus), to
help reclaim rainforest on pastures that have been previously cleared to raise beef. We welcome his interest and involvement.
The activities described in last years report are still being supported by ICR. In addition, the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) has requested ICR to inspect the canopy walkway we installed for them in the early 1990’s and to create international standards for operation (ISO) for all canopy walkways. Such standards do not exist at present and no measure exists for evaluating the installation of additional canopy walkways by others and the management and maintenance of existing ones. For each canopy walkway completed by ICR, we provided such guidelines, but over the years staff and administrative changes have affected quality control. Therefore, an ISO published and distributed internationally would reduce chances of problems occurring.
Some of our colleagues in the planned projects still keep in touch. However, continued armed conflict impedes further development.
We have had no further word about the planned project in Gabon from Dr. Charles Munn.
Other ICR Activities
Many interested individuals continue to visit our Catoctin Mountain Conservation Project. Among them, Gerardo Sandi’s family owns large areas of land and wants to acquire more to promote conservation. Roger Soles, former Executive Secretary of the U.S. Committee for the Man and the Biosphere Program (USMAB), continues to support ICR. He had a large part in helping ICR get started with financial support from USMAB. Since the USA has rejoined UNESCO, the US Committee was discontinued.
Dr. Muul continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the Frederick County Community Commons which has goals in environmental restoration and education. He has also been asked to help “The New Forestry Society” and he has been helping to find an ecologically sustainable way to save the large Gardiner Farm from high density real estate development.
Appeal for Support
Though our activities and contacts continue to grow, our main support comes from the volunteer services, office space, and land provided by Dr. and Mrs. Muul. We have no paid staff, though we greatly need help. Our projects have been funded by our clients, and this is how it should be. However, our clients so far have subscribed to one or few of our program elements, and have been satisfied at that. We still need a full program
implementation, with all of the elements adding to an unequivocal “critical mass” (see Dr. Muul’s MAB Digest No. 15, published by UNESCO in 1993). With such a demonstration of economically and ecologically sustainable development in the wet tropics, we are convinced that the tide of deforestation can be reversed.
Now that ICR owns the CCA, funds are needed for the many demonstration projects that are planned on this site ( please log on ICR web site www.incores.org ). We would greatly appreciate your support and invite you to visit CCA. ICR organizes small travel groups to visit Costa Rica and to see the natural wonders of this “green” country. Please contact Illar or Jing Muul for details and costs. The tours are customized according to interests of participants and are less expensive than most commercial package tours.
ICR is now offering “Green Investments” opportunities in the CCA project in Costa Rica. Please check our web site (www.incores.org, and click on Green Investments.)
Illar Muul, PhD
President, Integrated Conservation Research, Inc.
P. O. Box 63
Braddock Heights, MD 21714
Tel/fax: 301 371 8988
INTEGRATED CONSERVATION RESEARCH (ICR)