The Las Catalinas Environmental Program has six primary parts:
1. Forest Restoration
We love the land that is Las Catalinas. We love the trees, the animals, and the hills. We love the trails that allow us to get out and enjoy the land. To us, taking the best possible care of this land is a sacred duty. Our vision for Las Catalinas is a compact walkable gem of a town, surrounded by beautiful nature. So, we are restoring a forest.
Not so long ago Las Catalinas was all pasture land. The natural state of this land, however, is a tropical dry forest. That is what we want it to become again. So, we are actively and purposefully restoring a topical dry forest ecosystem at Las Catalinas. The techniques for doing this are: prevent fires, plant native trees, and prohibit hunting. We are eagerly doing all three, along with active wildlife management.
Fire control is the most important task in re-establishing a tropical dry forest. Fire is not a natural part of the Guanacaste ecosystem. In our immediate area many fires are set intentionally by hunters so that they can shoot animals who are fleeing the blaze. Other fires are accidental, often resulting from sparks blowing from yard waste fires.
Prior to our purchase of Las Catalinas in 2006, substantial portions of Las Catalinas would burn every year. Our fire brigade maintains over 80 kilometers of fire breaks within Las Catalinas. In total, we protect over 2,000 hectares of land within Las Catalinas and neighboring properties.
Local children are helping plant trees at Las Catalinas. With proper fire control, the regeneration of the tropical dry forest can be greatly accelerated and enriched by the planting of trees. Since 2007 we have planted more than 5,000 trees of 13 native dry forest evergreen species.
These trees have been purchased in plant nurseries in Guanacaste, promoting the local economy and guaranteeing they are well adapted to our conditions, and they have been planted in ravines and watersheds to promote water conservation.
Hunting is prohibited at Las Catalinas and this is enforced by a combination of our forestry workers and our security staff.
We expect Las Catalinas to become one of the great examples in the world of a regenerated tropical dry forest. It will also be one of the most visitable and enjoyable, and will expose many thousands of people who would otherwise never get to see it to the wonders of the tropical dry forest ecosystem.
2. Trail Building and Landscaping
Las Catalinas is about connecting with nature. Beautifully landscaped public areas and an extensive trail system enable our residents and guests to do that, with 22 kilometres of mountain biking trails, which are also excellent for hiking and trail running. In addition, we have another 3 kilometers of hiking trails that are too steep for bikes and provide access to some of the most dramatic places in Las Catalinas. All trails are built as “sustainable trails”, resistant to erosion.
3. Solid Waste Management
We have created a recycling education campaign for the community and the visitors and future inhabitants of Las Catalinas and are “recycling” our old campsite building to make it our solid waste management facility. We are working together with the local government (Municipalidad de Santa Cruz) to develop a recycling system for the whole region.
4. Wastewater Management
The most important resource in Guanacaste is water, which is why we have invested in a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that generates an outflow with standards as high as Costa Rica’s potable water. We use our water twice, and this plant guarantees that the water we use for irrigation and forest fire control is clean and safe.
5. Environmental Management Regency
As part of the legal and moral responsibilities of Las Catalinas, we follow up regularly on our Declaration of Environmental Commitments to SETENA (the Costa Rican EPA equivalent). This is a document that describes our environmental goals, rules and methods.
We also emphasize promoting a safe and secure working environment. We enforce Costa Rican law and a proactive prevention culture, in order to have an efficient and safe construction process.
6. Wildlife Management and Conservation
We are doing other things to help the animals thrive in this ecosystem. We build and maintain stone watering holes in the ravines of Las Catalinas to provide year-round drinking water for animals. We build “monkey bridges” in Las Catalinas and in neighboring areas to enable monkeys to cross roads and power lines safely. On rare occasions where animals like raccoons become a nuisance, we relocate them to more remote areas of the property.