Firestone Gift Establishes Pitzer College's Restoration Ecology Center in Costa Rica

CLAREMONT, Calif. (March 28, 2005) — A dedication ceremony was held March 19 at an ocean view site on Finca La Isla del Cielo, near the town of Dominical, Costa Rica, to mark international ecologist Diane Firestone's gift of her 145-acre farm to establish Pitzer College's Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology.

The Hacienda's director, Jack Ewing, explained Firestone's decade-long efforts to bring the farm, once an overused and depleted cattle ranch, to its current state of natural restoration. An ecological easement is being recorded to preserve the existing biodiversity of the property and limit non-educational development in the future. Firestone claims that under Pitzer College's stewardship the farm will have a wider educational impact on a broader audience, and through that process her vision for the farm will be realized. Firestone will continue her relationship with Pitzer College through her participation in the Center's Board of Friends.

The new Firestone Center will be home to programs in Pitzer's science, language, and international studies curricula, and provide new opportunities for faculty research and student engagement in an intercultural context. Given the location and offerings of the property, the connections and resources within the surrounding communities, the interests of the College faculty, and Firestone's vision, the Center will feature local collaborative resource management, a focus on human and tropical ecology, the study of reforestation and sustainable agriculture/permaculture practices on the farm, and community-based education including intensive language and cultural studies.

Firestone has completed extensive research into innovative uses of bamboo for construction and other purposes. Consequently, the farm includes a significant bamboo plantation that could produce an annual harvestable crop of timber bamboo between 7,000 and 10,000 poles annually. Pitzer will manage the bamboo plantation to preserve the health, beauty, and financial investment that the plantation represents, including annual thinning and harvesting for construction on site or sale.

"I am very pleased and proud to witness the farm enter this next phase of its evolution," Firestone said. "As a steward of the land for the past twelve years, it has always been my vision to see a greater number of people benefit from the beauty of La Isla del Cielo and the teachings it has to offer. Pitzer College brings a wealth of experience and diversity of talents to the farm that, combined with their enthusiasm and dedication to excellence, will create fantastic new learning opportunities. As I have come to know Pitzer over the past several months, I find them to be a group of open-minded and visionary individuals with a concern for the community around them and for the environment. I look forward to joining this dynamic group and lending my support to the establishment of the Center and assisting with Pitzer's integration into the community."

"The creation of the Firestone Center is the culmination of a dream that has been in development for many years at the College," Pitzer College Dean of Faculty Alan Jones said. "Our faculty will have an opportunity to pursue their interests in restoration and tropical ecology in this remarkable place, which is an enormous step forward for the entire academic program."

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