Tropical forester Dr. Leslie Holdridge acquired the core La Selva property in 1953 with the goal of implementing his ideas about the sustainable, nondestructive use of tropical wet forest. By that time La Selva had already become the site of important work on tropical forest and birds by his students and fellow scientists.
Holdridge also encouraged the Organization for Tropical Studies to offer courses in tropical biology at La Selva before it became OTS property in 1968.
In 1982, President Carazo designated the narrow corridor connecting La Selva to the Cordillera Central Forest Reserve (at about 900 m elevation) as a Zona Protectora (Protected Zone). International recognition of the value of conservation area came in 1988 when UNESCO recognized Braulio Carrillo National Park together with La Selva and Irazú Volcano and Poas Volcano National Parks as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, intended to integrate conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.
The reserve protects a large portion of Costa Rica’s biodiversity, for numerous species of birds, mammals, and insects that migrate periodically between the highlands and the lowlands. The change in elevation includes many life zones through a forest corridor that descends in elevation from 2,906 meters at Volcán Barva to 35 meters above sea level at La Selva.
Over the years in which OTS has managed La Selva, particularly during the 1980’s, La Selva has become a major tropical field station. Access is easy; new buildings have been constructed; and the reserve has tripled in size.