Environmental defenders against Gmelina Tree plantations in Southern Costa Rica

In the early 1990s environmental defenders opposed Stone Container's plans for Melina tree plantations, defending one of the most biodiverse zones of the country. This conflict is related to the death of four young activists.


As part of a national development program at the end of 1980s local governments from Southern Costa Rica (Golfito and Osa) signed an agreement with Stone Forestal Company a subsidiary of the US-based company Stone Container. The agreement consisted to plant 24 million of gmelina arborea or "Melina trees"  ( raw material for paper production)  across 24, 000 ha of rented farmland along the Southern Pacific Coast. It also included the permission for the building of a shipyard and a seaport to manufacture and export the material to the United States of America.  According to Stone Forestal, around 6000,000 tonnes of splinters would be cut and exported where they would be turned into film paper, newsprints, toilet paper or boxes. 

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Basic Data
NameEnvironmental defenders against Gmelina Tree plantations in Southern Costa Rica
CountryCosta Rica
SitePenínsula de Osa
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesPaper pulp
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording to Stone Forestal the chip mill would have created up to 2,500 jobs, since workers will be needed in the factory and to plant and harvest.

-The project included 24 million "melina trees" across 24,000 hectares (about 60,000 acres) of rented farmland along Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

-The fast-growing trees will be clear-cut in five years - the first crop would be ready in 1996 - then chopped in the chip mill and shipped to Stone plants in the United States, where they could have turned into film paper, newsprint, toilet paper, or boxes.

- Golfo Dulce is one of the most biologically diverse regions in Costa Rica and in the world.
Project Area (in hectares)24,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3000-5000
Start Date1990
End Date1994
Company Names or State EnterprisesStone Container Corporation from United States of America - owner
Stone Forestal from United States of America - subsidiaria de Stone Container
Relevant government actorsTribunal Ambiental Administrativo (TAA); Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ); Sala Constitucional;
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAsociación Ecologista Costarricense (AECO); Coeco-Ceiba- Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica; Federación Conservacionista de Costa Rica (FECON);

Supporters: Greenpeace; Rain Forest Action Network;
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion
OtherStone Forstal was aiming to send 168 trucks back and forth from plantations to the mill every day. The noise and pollution will disturb the wildlife.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of Alternatives-To continue with the small scale farming
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The struggle against Stone Forestal in Southern Costa Rica represents a victory for the Costa Rican environmental justice as Stone Forestal left the area. It was won at a great human cost.
Sources and Materials

Evolución Reciente del Ambientalismo en Costa Rica
[click to view]

"Guerreros del Golfo Dulce : industria forestal y conflicto en la Península de Osa, Costa Rica" autora: Heleen van den Hombergh.

Desarrollo Sotenible Centrado en el bienestar humano en Osa y Golfito, Costa Rica. Un análisis diagnóstico social.
[click to view]


¿Por qué se asesinan ambientalistas en Costa Rica?
[click to view]

Ston Forestal a manos ticas
[click to view]

[click to view]

20 años es mucho: autoridades tienen que rendir cuentas por muerte de ecologistas en 1994
[click to view]

An Environmental Test Case
[click to view]

Other Documents

Activistas ex miembros de AECO Activistas ex miembros de AECO : Oscar Fallas; María del Mar Cordero; Jaime Bustamante; David Maradiaga.
[click to view]

Rainforest In Reserva Forestal Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica Contributor: IEDNlab
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorENVJustice Project
Last update07/10/2018