Roberta Ward Smiley and Daniel Spreen Wilson first saw La Reserva in 1983. Looking up from the hot, dry valley in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, they were drawn to it. It was lush, cool land, nestled in the mountains, and they purchased the land – 40 hectares overlooking Lake Arenal – and joined the community as cattle farmers.
Happy to be farming, their lifelong dream together, the time went quickly. After 15 years, in 1998, they realized something different about the land. It was scarred with meter-deep cattle trails and marred by the chemicals that mark agricultural use.
Determined to restore the community of Howler Monkeys, Two-toed Sloths, Long-tailed Manakins, and Ceiba trees towering over Guanacaste, Roberta and Dan began hauling the cattle from the mountains and selling them in the valley below. The land began to heal quickly and the native flora and fauna returned in throngs.
The National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO) recognized Dan and Roberta’s efforts and the important environmental services that their recovering land provided. But the payments for environmental services (PES) that the national program provided did not last. When their contract with FONAFIFO expired in 2004, Roberta and Dan found themselves with a recovering forest in need of help.
Refusing to admit defeat, Roberta and Dan re-focused their efforts on the establishment of a community-based PES program that would provide landowners like themselves the support and guidance they needed to reforest their lands. Their idea took shape in 2005 with the founding of La Reserva Forest Foundation (LRFF).