Nature and Biodiversity

Chile has created 5 national parks from donated land

A view of the Rio Baker near the town of Cochrane, in the Chilean Patagonia region, some 1600 km (994 miles) south of Santiago, in this May 23, 2006 file photo. The Baker's swift waters -- it has the strongest flow rate of any Chilean river -- have attracted the nation's largest power generators with a $4 billion project to build four dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers. To match feature ENVIRONMENT CHILE. Picture taken May 23, 2006. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/Files (CHILE) - GM1DSVORGTAA

Patagonia is expanding its parkland to help preserve its rain-forests and grasslands from destruction. Image: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Brian Spaen
Writer for Green Matters, Green Matters
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Chile

Patagonia is a sparsely-populated location near the bottom of South America that’s shared by Argentina and Chile. The area is known for its untouched landscape and beautiful national parks, making it a common tourist attraction for many. Thanks to a massive private land donation to the Chilean government, much of this location will continue to be preserved.

On Monday, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced the major expansion of parklands that will preserve the rainforests and grasslands in the area. Over one million acres donated by American philanthropists will join the Chilean government’s nine-acre contribution that was federally owned. National parks in Chile will represent just over 80 percent of the country’s protected areas.

Doug Tompkins and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins spent around 25 years acquiring land in the area to conserve it. Doug, who was the founder of The North Face clothing and equipment line, died in a kayaking incident back in 2015. Two years later in March of 2017, Kristine kept his vision alive by pledging to donate that land to the Chilean government.

“This is not just an unprecedented act of preservation,” Bachelet said when the private donation became official on Monday. “It is an invitation to imagine other forms to use our land. To use natural resources in a way that does not destroy them. To have sustainable development – the only profitable economic development in the long term.”

It’s the largest private land donation in the world and is equivalent to triple the Yellowstone and Yosemite parklands if they were combined. Pumalin National Park and Patagonia National Park Chile existed under the Tompkins Conservation umbrella. Two other parks and a national reserve will be expanded.

Chile hopes to link all 17 of their national parks into a long 1,500-mile tourist passageway. The entire park system could bring in $270 million annually for the country and it could create 43,000 job opportunities. Bachelet has also completed negotiations with Easter Island to protect 720,000 square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean.

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"I am proud of my husband Doug and his vision which continues to guide us, in addition to our entire team, for completing these two national parks and the broader network, a major milestone of our first 25 years of work," Kristine Tompkins said in a press release.

"While we will continue to help promote and safeguard these parks, we are beginning to turn our attention to more new conservation and rewilding projects in Chile and Argentina as we work to save and restore big, wild and connected ecosystems."

South America provided a great place for the Tompkins to conserve land where the potential of Patagonia's beautiful landscape was cheap to acquire. Donating it to the Chilean government gives it further protection.

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Nature and BiodiversitySustainable Development
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