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Thanks largely to Rafael “Rafa” Gallo and his whitewater adventure company, Rios Tropicales, the Pacuare River still flows free. Rafa helped stop two hydroelectric dam attempts in 1990 and 2005. Over 35 years, he advocated for the river's permanent protection, fiercely protected the land from illegal logging and hunting, and planted close to 31,000 native hardwood trees in reforestation campaigns that have regenerated the region's biodiversity.
The Pacuare River is currently protected through 2040 by a 25-year Presidential Decree, signed by former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis in 2015.
In 2020, after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Rafa focused on creating a conservation initiative to protect and regenerate his beloved Pacuare River Valley. His close friends gave the organization the name RAFA – Rivers and Forests Alliance – to represent his nickname. After his sudden passing in March 2021, Rafa’s family and friends united to honor his lifelong work and carry forward the Rivers and Forests Alliance mission. His loss is felt acutely by the river and conservation communities worldwide.