Annual Report for 2008
The year 2008 was an extraordinary year for us and marked the seventh full year of activity of the Monteverde Conservation League U.S., Inc. (MCLUS) since its establishment in April 2002 with its mission “to support the conservation, preservation and rehabilitation of tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity.” MCLUS officers and board members have been carrying out its mission by volunteering time and effort to present informational programs and eco-tourism activities, to carry out fundraising efforts and to provide labor, advice, equipment and funds for activities in Costa Rica and Belize. MCLUS is closely allied with the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) in Monteverde, Costa Rica. MCL owns and manages El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (BEN), a 54,000+ acre nature preserve – the largest private reserve in Central America.
Land Purchase and Protection Campaign (LPPC).
In April 2004 MCLUS began a fundraising effort The Land Purchase and Protection 20 Anniversary Campaign to raise $1.5 million dollars by Dec. 31, 2007 in celebration of the beginning of the BEN in 1987. We did not reach this high, but we made a good beginning and are committed to reaching it and more. The money raised by LPPC will be split as follows: 50% will be used to buy land to create wildlife migratory corridors from the BEN to existing patches of remaining forests down the mountain slopes on the Pacific side, buy land along the BEN’s borders that will seal off the gateways used by poachers, buy “inholding lands” properties which are surrounded by the BEN, and pay for all the land related expenses like surveys, land registration and legal fees related to the purchase of land. The 40% will support MCL’s annual expenses for BEN’s protection and reforestation activities, and for environmental education for the BEN’s surrounding communities, repay outstanding loans, and provide operational funds for MCLUS. The 10% goes to a Board-directed fund for future Protection and Operational to be used at the discretion of the MCLUS board for emergencies.
We had 480 donors who donated in excess of $246,000. This represents an increase of over 40% in donations for Land Purchase and Protection over last year and that was after a 50% increase the year before!
Funds raised by the LPPC in 2008 will be spent on Pacific slope land currently being negotiated by the MCL. The priorities to be considered when selecting a piece of land to buy include how much biodiversity it has. Does the landowner have a clear title to the land? Is the price reasonable? Does the land lie within a reasonable area to be part of our cordillera to coast corridor goal? Is it contiguous to the BEN?
The purchase of Olger Badilla’s 115 acres of primary forest was negotiated in October by MCL and added a piece of forest to the BEN that is contiguous to the BEN and that includes and now protects the headwaters of the Aranjuez River. This is a crucial piece in the biological corridor on the Pacific slope that we have been focusing on. Many thanks to our donors who made this land purchase possible.
We set a goal to raise $250,000 in 2008 and we did.
Other Donations and Assistances to MCL.
When Dwight Crandell passed away early in the year, friends and family were invited to give donations to MCLUS as a memorial to Dwight. MCLUS received over $20,000 in his memory.
In 2008 we saw more individual donors who gave between $1000 and $10,000 than ever before. Large donations move us closer to our goals faster. We are especially grateful for the increased possibility of corporate donors spurred by the efforts of board member, Tom Newmark, and the friendships he is helping create through the CEO hike across the BEN in February. Whole Foods Markets of southern California had a 5% day in January pledging 5% of their retail sales from all 37 stores to go to the BEN. We were delighted to receive a check for $103,699.50 from Michael Besancon, head of the southern California division of WFM during the Big Hike across the BEN. We then received another check for over $50,000 from WFM in conjunction with other partners in their region. Then $13,000 came from WFM in Austin, Texas. As a result of Tom Newmark’s help Sprouts Farmers Markets held a fundraiser for MCLUS resulting in almost $35,000. They were so enthusiastic in their campaign to share information with their customers about the BEN. A Gala party in Hollywood in May brought new folks face to face with the BEN. Through the generous use of their lovely building Creative Artitsts’ Agency hosted the Gala. Whole Foods Markets provided the meal. The tables were decorated with orchids and live violin music filled the air. It was indeed a festive occasion. Many people who had never heard of the BEN before got to see Mark Wainwright and Alex Villegas film “Stranded” which was a striking visual portrayal of the beauty and diversity of the forest and the bleak deforested mountainside just beyond our borders. All had a good time, money was raised, and folks went home knowing a lot more about the rainforest.
A new children’s book The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure by award winning author Kristin Joy Pratt Serafini and Rachel Crandell (Dawn Publications) came out in February. This beautifully illustrated book has won 5 awards so far and is in paperback, hardback, second and third printings already. It would make a lovely gift to your local school and public library. It tells the story of the BEN through the adventures of little Peter and his mom Anna who have come from Sweden. She is one of the little kids, now grown up, who helped begin El Bosque Eterno de los Niños in 1987. They hike through the BEN and encounter wonderful wildlife along the way. Peter wants to help, too, and realizes he can plant trees! The scientific information about the species in the story appear in sidebars along with the history of the BEN in the back of the book with recommended websites and books, and the coordinates to find the BEN on Google Earth. When the book is purchased through MCLUS, all the profit goes to the BEN. Copies were given to MCL to sell at Bajo del Tigre Visitor Center in Monteverde.
Rachel’s children’s book Hands of the Maya had successful sales with many copies sold by MCLUS. The profits are directed to scholarships for Maya high school students in Belize. Rachel has contributed her royalties for that scholarship effort in order to help sustain the indigenous people’s efforts to conserve and preserve their local ecosystem and way of life. In 2008 these funds provided $3,000 in scholarships to students of Maya Centre Village in central Belize. MCLUS has also channeled funds for 3 scholarships to girls from the San Luis Valley to attend colegio (high school) in nearby Santa Elena in the Monteverde Zone in Costa Rica and one to attend baking school.
MCLUS Eco-tourism trips to the BEN continue to be good fundraisers and educate people about the forest and create new donors. In 2008 three trips were offered, one in May and two in July for two weeks each.Â The May trip was for students from Fox River Country Day School, and Discovery Bound high school students went in early July, followed immediately by an open registration trip for 19 the last two weeks in July.
The Rainforest Quilt Project
The rainforest has become a hot topic for children in Macomb, Illinois. Almost 200 students and the local Girl Scout troop painted and sewed a Rainforest Quilt. Local businesses were invited to buy donor squares that their names stitched into the quilt and create a border around the colorful squares of animals and plants of the rainforest that the children had created. It is a true work of art with input from kids, teachers, parents, and businesses in the community. The Quilt provided funding to help send a teacher to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest on the MCLUS July trip.
Our Student Ambassador program for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 came to a close, but Gay Townsend started a fund (to honor her late husband) that would send a teacher or student on an MCLUS trip to the BEN. This year Merran Waller was selected and took full advantage of the opportunity. She had just completed the fifth grade at Principia Lower School. She kept a thorough journal and was up extra early almost every morning to get additional birding in before breakfast. Three other children were on the trip with their families, all from St. Louis. When they returned home three of them organized the Forever Forest Group and began to look for ways to raise $2000 for the BEN. They chose to make note cards from their own digital photos and glue them on 100% post consumer recycled paper with a sticker on the back that explains 100% of their profits go to the BEN. Then they proceeded to look for festivals and speaking opportunities to market their cards. They reached their goal of $2000 by October and promptly raised the goal to $5000. They also invited the three past student ambassadors from St Louis to join their FFG club and help give talks and put more cards together. This is a wonderful example of the activist alive and well in children who have experienced the magic of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest firsthand.
Facebook Cause Campaign: In early January we initiated a Cause campaign on Facebook that raised about $1200. This contest is revealing a whole new generation of young and eager philanthropic givers who are willing to donate their time, money and attention to deserving causes such as the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. It demonstrates the power of social networking sites to make a real difference through their millions of motivated members. It was our first attempt at using the internet to fundraise. The Mother’s Grove campaign last week brought in $640 in 3 days.
Other projects and actions
E-Newsletters are going out monthly to our supporters and interested persons via Internet. The E-Newsletters are being archived on our website www.mclus.org for updated information.
Dream the Forest Wild
Dream the Forest Wild Book Project: How Children Saved a Rainforest by Sue Memhard with Jim Crisp. This is the remarkable, true story of how El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (affectionately known as the BEN, in English – The Children’s Eternal Rainforest) came to be saved thanks to kids from around the world. Now, twenty years later, the lyrical story Dream the Forest Wild continues to inspire kids everywhere and invites kids to be their own illustrators. Kids can read the story online and ask their teacher if they can be part of the KIDS BOOK PROJECT by drawing their own illustrations and going to www.dreamtheforestwild.com to get them published. What a great way to spread the word about the BEN.
Rainforest Rachel on NPR
On April 30 Rachel Crandell was interviewed on KWMU for an hour on St. Louis on the Air. It is being streamed on NPR’s website for the next six months. It offered good exposure for our efforts to protect and expand the BEN.
The Uruta Draga Project
The Uruta Draga Project in Panama has moved forward. We were able to facilitate receiving a free lab test of the oil by the Danforth Plant Center. We found a donor for the $25,000 needed to fund the initial plantingby theEmberá people of the 9,000 trupa palm trees near the village of Manene in Darien, Panama by the Emberá people. Rogelio Cansari, head of the Foundation to plant the trees, declared this “a new beginning for my people.”
Emberá Stories in Spanish and English went to press. Joanna Crandell has done the layout work after many proof reading sessions by Spanish and English speaking friends. Rogelio has also completed the Emberá transcriptions so we are finally ready to print the Emberá-Spanish version. It is this version that will be placed in the village schools throughout the two comarcas in Panama.
We purchased liability insurance to protect MCLUS for our eco-tourism trips. It has been a good idea and we will continue this practice. Monteverde Institute. In the past we have accommodated the transference of funds for the Monteverde Institute as they do not have a nonprofit sister organization in the United States, but concluded this practice in 2008. MCLUS found a donor for $200,000 to buy a piece of land owned by MVI to be set aside as forever protected. This land is adjacent to MVI land and has been added to another piece to create a reserve now called the Dwight Crandell Memorial Reserve. This was a great help to MVI in their financial bind. MCLUS is happy to help support in this way the fine work this institution is doing in the Monteverde community.
The MCLUS officers and Board of Directors are pleased with our continued progress and can foresee growing benefits to the BEN and every other activity which MCLUS supports. We raised more money than in any previous year largely due to the efforts of Tom Newmark and the partnerships with Whole Foods Markets, Sprouts Farmers Markets and the Gala in Hollywood in May. The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure came out in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BEN. An article about the BEN and the work of MCLUS came out in Green Business Quarterly. That is more public awareness about our work. We have deep and constant gratitude for the faithful and willing support of so many who have responded to our requests.
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