Nature

Chile Announces 2 New National Parks Incorporating 1M Acres of Donated Private Land

On January 29, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, President and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, signed over one million acres of land including a world-class infrastructure to support them to the government of Chile. It has been combined with 9 million acres of Chilean federal land to create Pumalin National Park and Patagonia National Park.

The Chacabuco Valley makes up the heart of Patagonia Park, one of Tompkins Conservation\'s flagship projects in southern Chile. Patagonia Park will soon join Chile\'s national park system, along with four other new national parks and three national park expansions. Photo: James Q Martin

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet co-signed the decree accepting the donation and creating the parks. The one million acres and world-class infrastructure they contain have been billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country.

This marks the culmination of the pledge that President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins signed in March 2017 to create a network of five new national parks in Chile and the expansion of three others. Together, they are adding a total of more than 10 million acres of new national parklands to Chile, with one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and an additional 9 million acres of federal land from Chile. For scale, that is more than three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined, or approximately the size of the country of Switzerland.

The signing of these decrees cements Chile as one of the global leaders in conservation today, a vision which President Bachelet touched on in her speech today. "With these beautiful lands, their forests, their rich ecosystems, we...expand the network of parks to more than 10 million acres. Thus, national parklands in Chile will increase by 38.5% to account for 81.1% of Chile's protected areas."

"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. "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."

Patagonia National Park Chile and Pumalín National Park will be key destinations in the network of parks of Chilean Patagonia. These parks are already open to the public, welcoming visitors from Chile and around the world to experience Patagonia's natural beauty, which will now be permanently protected for all visitors and the creatures that call these parks home.

From its inception, Tompkins Conservation's objective has been to donate privately acquired land to parks systems to be protected at the highest level of conservation for generations to come. To date, the organization and its partners have protected roughly 13 million acres of land to parks systems in Chile and Argentina, where they have worked with local and national governments, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, activists, conservationists and their  local staff to achieve permanent conservation.

Tompkins Conservation was founded by Kristine and Douglas (1943–2015) Tompkins, business leaders from iconic American clothing brands including The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, Inc., who changed the course of their lives more than 25 years ago to devote their funds, time, and passion to fight the biggest crisis in the world: biodiversity loss. After careful analysis, Kristine and Douglas concluded that creating large national parks where evolutionary processes could take their course was the most effective way to combat this loss. National parks represent the "gold standard" of biodiversity conservation, offering a unique set of ecological attributes, cultural values, and economic benefits to local communities, while also guaranteeing long-term conservation. Tompkins Conservation is a major player in the Americas in what is known as "rewilding," restoring natural ecosystems and reintroducing wildlife that has disappeared from a region because of human pressures.