Costa Ricas President Solís with Michael Schnitzler
Presidential decree for Rainforest of the Austrians

25 years Rainforest of the Austrians: A Summary

In 1991, the Esquinas forest, one of the last unprotected lowland tropical rainforests on the Pacific coast of Central America, was declared Piedras Blancas National Park. However, since all land was in private hands, it could only be catalogued as a "paper park" until it was owned by the Costa Rican national park service. Logging permits for tropical hardwood trees had been issued before the declaration of the park and deforestation continued, inflicting irreversible damage. This prompted, Michael Schnitzler, a well-known classical violinist from Vienna and part-time resident of Costa Rica, to found a non-profit organization called Rainforest of the Austrians with the goal of raising funds to buy property in the Esquinas forest.

By 2015, over 15.000  individuals had donated more than $4,000,000, enabling the purchase of more than 15 square miles of forest. All property, most of which had exploitation permits for logging, has been donated to the Costa Rican government and become part of the national park; logging in these areas has ceased. With the help of the Costa Rican government, the hydroelectric company Tenaska, The Nature Conservancy, and the Moore Foundation, 72% of the Esquinas forest had already been purchased by the end of 2014. Since 2003,  Rainforest of the Austrians has has taken an active role in the campaign against illegal logging and  hunting and has donated funds to the Corcovado Foundation for the employment of  park wardens. In 2009, it financed the construction of a park ranger station in La Gamba.  

Rainforest of the Austrians has  contributed  to The Nature Restoration Foundation for it's successful scarlet macaw release project in Piedras Blancas NP and has supported the Yaguará Wildcat Conservation Program and Osa Conservation in their efforts to protect wildcats in the Osa area. Michael Schnitzler was awarded Austria's highest environmental prize, the Konrad Lorenz Prize, and was appointed Honorary Member of the Costa Rican National Park Service. In 2015, he received a Presidential Decree from President Solís lauding his conservation efforts.

Tree nursery in La Gamba
Confiscated purple heart logs
Puma on the Fila Trail