Quebrada Cuecha

For the next twenty years, the community shared the responsibility of caretaking the Watershed Property. At the frontier of homestead development, Ochomogo had many wild animals that attracted hunters, and palm trees that were cut to harvest the hearts of palm (especially in the week of Easter.) The landowners were faced with invasions by squatters on four occasions. In 1959 and 1967, two squatters (Bombacho Solis from Santa Elena and then Rolando Soto from San José) made clearings and in one case erected a rancho. In both situations, the Quakers used legal action to evict them. The very fact that the Quakers had bought this land and marked it with a boundary line made it more enticing to people, drawing their attention to previously ignored remote lands and raising the possibility of claiming “improvement” fees according to the homesteading laws.

It was often through indirect tips from their Tico neighbors that they found out that the Watershed Property was being invaded. The Ticos didn’t tattle directly but would suggest that the Quakers go and look on their property, hinting that somebody had taken an interest and was starting to cut trees. In these years it was mostly hunters who journeyed throughout the forest and brought back any news of activities observed. The Quakers chose not to pay the evicted squatters so as not to encourage others, and those turned out resented that they were not paid for making the clearings. At this time, cleared land was still considered more valuable than standing primary forest. It was important that the landowners evicted the people off their land before they did any clearing. Otherwise they would have to get local police or the special police, Reis Guardas, who came up from Puntarenas to get the squatters to vacate the land.

Wolf Guindon

For the first twenty years, community members actively patrolled and protected the Watershed Property. These were volunteer hours, as was the case in so many other aspects of life in Monteverde. Forest protection demanded hard physical work and the risk of confrontation deep in the wet forest. Wolf Guindon and Hubert Mendenhall took a keen interest in keeping the squatters and tree-cutters from the property, and they cut and maintained boundary lines. They also took the long trip to Puntarenas to get the authorities when they needed help identifying and finding the invaders or legally denouncing them. As the land remained in Hubert’s name, he had to be the one to deal with the legal issues. The community shared in the cost of maintenance (boundary line cutting) and other legal costs including taxes. Due to these efforts, the Watershed Property remained intact until it came under the administration of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in the 1970s.

Bosqueterno topo map

In 1969, the community began discussions that would lead to the legal transformation of the Ochomogo Watershed Property to Bosqueterno S.A. Beginning in 1971, biologists George and Harriett Powell started raising funds to buy the first lands for the establishment of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. It took a lot of discussion and five years for the legal papers to be completed, but from 1970 on, the watershed land was called Bosqueterno.

Trail to El Valle

In 1971, there was an invasion by squatters that was settled by threat of legal action before any clearing was actually done. In 1973, there was a more serious invasion by a group of seven people out in the area now called El Valle that borders the northeast boundary of the watershed land. They had squatters’ rights in that area that they accessed via a trail that ran through Bosqueterno land. Ramon Vargas, José Maria Villegas, Edwin and Bolivar Fonseca, and others, developed the trail to El Valle. They began a major improvement of the path by cutting the large oaks, their intention being to allow the sun to penetrate and dry out the muddy trail. Some of the workers involved in this cutting began clearing land within the boundaries of Bosqueterno, with the intention of establishing a claim on the land. They planted cuttings of cucuya grass to be used for seeding the larger clearings they intended to develop.

It’s suggested that the group of seven thought that this wasn’t part of the Monteverde property, as it drained to the Atlantic unlike the rest of the community land which was on the Pacific slope. It was perhaps a direct challenge to the rights of “foreigners” to hold and keep a large tract of forest land from development. It was also a backlash to the founding of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve which was starting to absorb more land in the area. These invaders, from local families such as the Fonsecas and Rojas, were more persistent than any previous. The Quaker community filed a legal claim against the group for cutting over 100 timber trees, twenty of them being large oak trees.

This test case came to a successful settlement without having to go to court. George Powell and Wolf Guindon met with the principle person behind the clearing of the trail, Ramon Vargas. Powell promised to come up with money to buy out the El Valle holdings if they would cease working on the road. There was a small building on the El Valle property that George Powell bought and it has been used ever since by the vigilance and maintenance employees of the Reserve. But dealing with the squatters within Bosqueterno was more difficult and took years to resolve. It took a firm commitment on behalf of the Quakers to defend their property in a calm fashion and adhere to legal procedure. Eventually the would-be squatters left, having signed a document recognizing that this was land that belonged to Monteverde.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve started growing in the early 1970s. As money was raised, property was bought and its boundaries were extended. Now there was a full-time forest guard, Wolf Guindon, who patrolled the area as well as maintenance personnel, including a young local man, Eladio Cruz, who regularly cleared the trails and boundary lines. The community decided that Bosqueterno would be best served under this umbrella of protection and so they incorporated the property as Bosqueterno S.A. and leased it to the Monteverde Reserve. That was the next stage in the life of the wet, windblown forest on the top of the green mountain.