Last week, Kristine Tompkins signed over one million acres of land to the Chilean government for the creation of a series of national parks. Decades in the making, this land was saved from industrialization and preserved for both wildlife and ecosystem prosperity as well as for the people to sustainably enjoy these wild spaces.
Kristine is the former CEO of Patagonia. In 1993, she retired, married The North Face founder Doug Tompkins, and they both moved to southern Chile. Why Chile? At the time, South Chile was facing a growing threat from forestry, mining, hydro dams, and industrial aquaculture. The pair believed it had great potential in terms of conservation so they set out to purchase acres upon acres of land with the plan to preserve it.
While first met with huge skepticism from the Chilean people who though they were out to steal parts of the country out from under them, the couple soon won everyone over as they worked for a quarter century to create and expand national parks in Chile and Argentina — including Pumalín Park, a public-access 800,000-acre nature reserve in the south of Chile’s Lakes Region. They worked hard to recover imperiled wildlife, demonstrate organic agricultural practices, promote healthy local communities, and support leading-edge activism.
These efforts continue today under Tompkins Conservation that Kristine still runs. The idea was always to hand back much of the land for the Chilean people to enjoy and last week that was made official. Sadly, Doug did not live to see the signing — he died in a kayaking accident back in 2015. “I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry,” Kristine said.
The Chilean government will match the donation with a further 949,000 hectares or roughly 2.3 million acres of land. The land will create 17 different parks that stretch from the Chilean city of Puerto Montt down to Cape Horn, some 2,000km (1,250 miles) to the south.
Who wants to go visit?!