In a landmark act of conservation, Chile has created five new national parks out of over 10 million acres of land in Patagonia. One million of these acres was donated to the Chilean government by American philanthropists Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia Inc., and the late Doug Tompkins, who founded North Face and Esprit. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed the law creating these parks, forging a vast 17-park route through the beautiful, sparsely populated region.
The one million acre donation from the Tompkins represents the culmination of decades of land conservation work in Chile, and what is being called be the largest donation of privately held land in history. A beloved place in life, Patagonia is where Doug Tompkins passed away in 2015 in a kayaking accident. The Tompkins are one of several foreign landowners of Patagonia, a role not without controversy or dissent from locals. Still, their land donation marks a major milestone in Chilean conservation.
“This is not just an unprecedented act of preservation,” Bachelet said in a speech in Patagonia, according to The Guardian. “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.”
Bachelet’s environmental legacy is not limited to Patagonia. Now at the end of her term, Bachelet has also recently created one of the largest Marine Protected Areas near Easter Island, preserving 720,000 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. “President Bachelet is leaving behind a bold legacy of environmental protection,” Maximiliano Bello, an advisor to the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy program, told The Guardian. “This is more impressive because Chile is still a developing country, with a long history of development and exploitation of resources – in most cases over-exploitation. If Chile can take these huge environmental steps, there are few reasons why developed nations can’t act as well.”
Via The Guardian