In this interview, Alvaro Ugalde speaks about discovering his own love for conservation biology and for Costa Rica’s biodiversity, especially in Osa, which he describes as one of the most difficult conservation regions to manage. He also explains the role of the Director of the Park Service. Ugalde recalls Costa Rica’s environmental history, detailing his process of founding and supporting expansion of the parks system. He explains that despite much progress in the recent past, the protected areas today are not sufficient. Ugalde emphasizes the importance of proper management of the parks, and explains his belief that educating locals about the ecosystem they inhabit will encourage them to take responsibility for their environmental impact. Ugalde says there can be no conservation without justice, and also talks about compensation efforts for those displaced by conservation projects.
At the time of this interview, Alvaro Ugalde was retired after a career in Costa Rica’s National Parks System. He was widely celebrated as one of the fathers of Costa Rica’s National Parks System. He gained experience and an interest in conservation as a graduate student studying Natural Resource Management at the University of Michigan. He also completed the Park Operations Course at the Grand Canyon and started volunteering at Costa Rica’s national parks even before finishing his BS. He spent three years working as a volunteer and as a park administrator at Santa Rosa National Park, served as the Regional Director of the Osa Conservation Area, and as the Director of the Park Service for Costa Rica. Along with Mario Boza, he co-founded the country’s national parks system, which now protects more than a fourth of the land in Costa Rica. Ugalde passed away shortly after this interview, on February 15, 2015.