Six years after the historic event of planting 5,000 trees in one day, making the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s 2016 Adventure Travel World Summit carbon neutral, the forest in Costa Rica is thriving.
New growth is already happening under the 20-foot-tall canopy, and the mature forest is providing a habitat for wildlife like birds, wild peccaries, and ocelots. The 3,000 Mountain Almond trees are attracting critically endangered Great Green Macaws that migrate to this area from September to November to feed and nest in these trees.
Considered one of Costa Rica’s largest tree planting events in one day, more than 350 volunteers planted 5,000 native hardwood tree species on Aug. 19, 2016, at Terciopelo Farm in Bajo Tigre by the Pacuare River. The farm is part of the Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve.
The colossal event was organized by Rafael Gallo, CEO of the Costa Rican adventure company Rios Tropicales, in partnership with the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau, Alaska Airlines, the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT), EARTH University, and several corporate sponsors. The Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) was held in September of that year in Anchorage, Alaska.
Called the International Carbon Neutrality Project Alaska – Costa Rica, the effort was selected as one of the 500 best social and environmental projects in Latin America in 2017 by the Latin American Green Awards (Premios Latinoamerica Verde).
Costa Rica’s EARTH University verified the tree planting, estimating that it would take about 12 to 14 years for the trees to capture the approximately 1,200 tons of carbon calculated to be produced during the ATWS 2016 by people traveling to the conference, principally on flights.
“These 5,000 trees significantly impact the ecosystem and restore connectivity in the Barbilla-Destierro Biological Subcorridor in the Pacuare River Basin. And the forest will only keep growing in the years to come,” said Roberto Gallo, son of Rafa Gallo and Board President and Executive Director of Projects and Operations for the Rivers and Forests Alliance (RAFA).
Since Rafa Gallo’s death in March 2021, Roberto has taken over managing all of the Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve properties. With the Rivers and Forests Alliance (RAFA), he is continuing his father’s stewardship of the Pacuare River Basin and spreading his conservation message to the world. In RAFA reforestation events, 4,500 more trees have been planted in the Reserve since October 2021.
“Planting trees is the first stepping stone in a conservation mindset. This is a great way to introduce people to sustainability and conservation and what it means to make a change. We are planting baby seedlings and then waiting for several years for them to make a difference in the environment. In the same way, we are planting seeds in the people volunteering with us so they take this conservation mindset wherever they go and apply it in their lives. Small actions now can lead to big results in years to come,” Roberto said.
“For me, carrying on my dad’s legacy is furthering the conservation teachings that he began with me from a young age. I want to share that knowledge and love with others by bringing them to the Pacuare River Basin to be part of conservation events like tree plantings. It means so much to involve and teach others this same conservation mindset. My dad had such a massive impact during his lifetime, and I want to match that and go even further so that, just like his dream, my kids and grandkids can benefit.”