MercoPress, en Español

Montevideo, November 21st 2018 - 18:35 UTC

Tompkins widow plans to hand over thousands of acres to create national parks in Patagonia

Monday, January 25th 2016 - 08:41 UTC
Full article 20 comments
McDivitt Tompkins met with Chile's Bachelet to discuss the proposed handover of pristine properties to create a string of national parks in Patagonia. McDivitt Tompkins met with Chile's Bachelet to discuss the proposed handover of pristine properties to create a string of national parks in Patagonia.
In December, she met with new Argentine president Macri to donate to the country 150,000 hectares of threatened wetlands near to create Ibera National Park. In December, she met with new Argentine president Macri to donate to the country 150,000 hectares of threatened wetlands near to create Ibera National Park.
Over the years, the Tompkins have invested more than US$375m in conservation, donating part of their land holdings in the two countries to create national parks Over the years, the Tompkins have invested more than US$375m in conservation, donating part of their land holdings in the two countries to create national parks
The latest project was donating land to create or expand in Chile eight more parks in Patagonia totaling 4.5m hectares, 15 times the size of California's Yosemite Park. The latest project was donating land to create or expand in Chile eight more parks in Patagonia totaling 4.5m hectares, 15 times the size of California's Yosemite Park.

The widow of American conservationist Doug Tompkins, who died last month while kayaking in South America's Patagonia region, says she'll build on her husband's legacy of protecting threatened ecosystems in Argentina and Chile.

 Kristine McDivitt Tompkins said in a telephone interview from Puerto Varas in southern Chile that since her husband died at age 72, she has been working non-stop to permanently protect from development the millions of acres they acquired over a quarter-century.

McDivitt Tompkins met with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet on Thursday to discuss the proposed handover of pristine properties to create a string of national parks in Patagonia. In December, she met with new Argentine President Mauricio Macri to donate to the country 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres) of threatened wetlands near the border with Brazil to create Ibera National Park.

“It's very hard to imagine a life without Doug as my husband, but I know that the work that we started we're going to finish,” said McDivitt Tompkins, a former CEO of outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. “The idea of stopping, slowing down or changing our plans never occurred to me.”

In conservation circles, the high-school dropout Tompkins is revered as a kind of environmental messiah. A globe-trotting rock climber and skier in his youth, in the early 1990s he got divorced, abandoned the corporate fast lane and moved to the Chilean wilds after cashing out shares in two major retail clothiers he founded: The North Face and Esprit.

Shortly after, he and McDivitt Tompkins, his second wife, started quietly gobbling up large tracts of land to protect a 3,000-year-old forest in Patagonia. Along the way they earned the opposition of loggers, power companies and nationalist Chileans who fueled rumors that the “gringo” millionaire was trying to steal Chile's water resources or perhaps was a CIA spy.

True to his adventurer's roots, Tompkins was out on a lake with longtime friends including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard when their kayaks capsized in freezing waters on Dec. 8 and he died hours later from hypothermia.

Over the years, he and his wife had invested more than $375 million in conservation, donating part of their land holdings in the two countries to create four national parks protecting upward of 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) — an area three times the size of Rhode Island.

Lately, they were engaged in their most-ambitious deal yet: donating land to Chile to create or expand eight more parks in Patagonia totaling 4.5 million hectares (11 million acres), or about 15 times the size of California's Yosemite National Park. Those properties include a former sheep ranch, Estancia Valle Chacabuco, where Tomkins was buried.

A memorial gathering for Tompkins is planned later this month in San Francisco, where he developed his business career.

McDivitt Tompkins said she now plans to continue dividing her time between Argentina and Chile.

She said that once-harsh views about the couple's suspected motives have now eased, meanwhile South Americans are more aware of the value of keeping land off limits to extractive industries. Case in point: Chile's Senate, which years ago threatened to strip Tompkins of his holdings, has unanimously agreed to grant him honorary citizenship posthumously.

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • Marti Llazo

    Tompkins died because he acted in his usual arrogant manner. And for someone who liked to consider himself an “experienced kayaker” that arrogance showed up as suicidal stupidity. The investigation into his death has turned up the details: the kayak outing was done contrary to the law and against the requirements specified by the Chilean Navy, which controls that lake. Tompkins was on the lake (glacier-fed, water temps about 3 degrees C) with no immersion suit, and not even wearing a flotation device as required by law, on a part of the lake that regularly gets 100 km/hr winds. But hey, when you're Doug Tompkins, the law is optional. His group didn't even have the required GPS with them, nor the number for the lake search and rescue authority for use with their satellite phone, and blew off the requirement to do a mandatory check-in with the authorities. So yes, it was basically suicide.

    Jan 25th, 2016 - 12:05 pm 0
  • yankeeboy

    Bad idea to gift it back to the State.
    They'll just end up selling it to their cronies when they get the chance.

    Jan 25th, 2016 - 01:18 pm 0
  • hurricane

    #1 Still whining about Tompkins ! Get a job, a hobby, a woman. Whatever, or just shoot yourself and get it over with. Victim as usual. At least he did SOMETHING besides just sitting around ranting about others.

    Jan 25th, 2016 - 02:38 pm 0
Read all comments

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!