This past month, Kris Tompkins donated 1 million acres to the country of Chile, one of the largest private donations of land in the country’s history. With this donation, along with a 9 million acre donation made by the Chilean government, the park system of Chile will expand by 10 million acres. This expansion will include Pumalin Park, Patagonia Park, Hornopiren Reserve, Corcovado Reserve, and Alecalufes Reserve.
Kris and her late husband, Doug Tompkins, have spent over two decades acquiring and restoring Patagonia landscapes to their original wilderness state. With this recent donation, the protected land in Chile will increase to 29% and the “Route of Parks” will come closer to completion. The plan is for Route Parks to be a network of 17 national parks that span more than 1,500 miles.This new network will be filled with snow-capped mountain peaks, red rock canyons, glaciated fjord, clear blue rivers, and coastal volcanoes.
One of the private ranches that the Tompkins family bought and restored to wilderness was Patagonia Sur’s Jeinimeni property. Jeinimeni is located at the entrance of the Jeinimeni Reserve and home to the valuable confluence of the Jeinimeni River and Las Nieves River. Patagonia Sur and the Tompkins have always shared the same intrinsic values with respect to conservation in Patagonia.
Patagonia Sur’s founder, Warren Adams (featured here in recent photo with Kris Tompkins), said, “We are proud to play a role in working with Kris and Conservation Patagonica to protect this Patagonian wilderness and pristine river front.”
Private ranches, such as those found in Patagonia Sur‘s portfolio (Valle California, Rio Palena, and Tortel), are at the heart of the project and are also driven by conservation. The first conservation easement in the country, supervised by Tierra Austral Land Trust, was formed on Valle California and allows only limited development on the reserve. Both Valle California and Rio Palena are only a short drive from Pumalin Park, while Tortel is just south of Patagonia Park.
The protection of this 10 million acres will promote long-term conservation of biodiversity and wildlife, and that’s not the only benefit. Chile is attempting to make ecotourism one of the main regional economic drivers. The new park will bring over 43,000 jobs to the community and generate $270 million annually in tourism income.
One of the first ecotourism projects in the area was created by the Tompkins family. Doug Tompkins bought Fundo Los Leones and made it into a premier ecotourism destination near the small town of Raul Marine Balmaceda. The property sits on the remote banks of the Pitipalena Fjord and is home to numerous fishing, kayaking, and hiking adventures. Since its inception, the project has generated income for local businesses and created conservation-based education programs for native residents.
Doug Tompkins passed away last year kayaking on General Carrera Lake. Doug always believed that there was intrinsic value to land and wilderness separate from “its utility to man”. Both Doug and Kris felt that land was meant to be kept public and left in its natural state. Doug always spoke of how the national parks are “one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all its citizenry,” and Kris is carrying on that legacy.
Patagonia is one of the last great frontiers. Stewards of the land like the Tompkins and Patagonia Sur have made it their mission to protect these ecosystems for future generations of pioneers.