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History and Current State of Arboriculture in Costa Rica

Marco Montero Solís, President

Costa Rica has an important heritage of conservation and promotion of sustainable development. More than 50 percent of its territory is covered by some type of forest, and 25 percent is included in some category of conservation. However, the professional practice of arboriculture is relatively young and began to take shape by a group of professionals, who, in 2004, started a self-training process on best practices, with intuitive actions, but with the ability to learn by doing and making adjustments and improvements along the way.

This reaction was spurred to address a reality. Just as in other countries, the trees have always been managed with technical ignorance in choosing the right tree, in its production, its establishment and management, and using inadequate techniques that generate negative effects on the trees. For this reason, since 2013, training processes on Best Practices in Arboriculture have been initiated for stakeholders.

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz (CNFL) should be mentioned as a pioneer. A company whose main business is the distribution and commercialization of electrical energy, it has more than 20 years of experience developing environmental actions, including research and production of trees appropriate for the city and the development of tree planting projects. In addition, it has trained more than 200 people from different organizations on arboricultural issues, through its course called: Comprehensive Management of Urban Trees.

In 2019, part of this group of professionals joined other organizations that work towards the professionalization of the industry in the country and formed the Costa Rican Association of Arboriculture (ACRA), which has representatives from the private sector, the Academy, local governments and, of course, the CNFL as a pioneer in the country. In this process, they had the support of ACA Colombia and APA Peru, who selflessly advised in the formation of ACRA.

It can be said that there is a “before” and an “after” since the creation of ACRA. Its emergence has made the science of arboriculture more visible and has highlighted the need to professionalize the industry. ACRA works both at the central government and local government levels by supporting the creation of manuals of good practices, based on the best practices of arboriculture, and hiring more and more professional arborists to guarantee the proper management of trees. In two of the most important universities in the country, efforts are already being made to include the topic of arboriculture in the curriculum of related career paths like forestry and engineering. Members of ACRA are part of the faculty, in at least one of these study centers.

The private company is already aware of the business opportunities that exist around the tree industry - in equipment and services for arboriculture. Among the members of ACRA are representatives of companies dedicated to the commercialization of this equipment as well as arborists certified by ISA who work in tree management.

ACRA has started a strong outreach process, targeting key stakeholders and decision-makers, in arboriculture, standards and appropriate techniques. Since Costa Rica is a country characterized by its ecological heritage and by taking the initiative in environmental issues, it is very possible that the seed of arboriculture has fallen and germinated in fertile land and will be able to develop vigorously.