Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks aided by the largest private land donation from a private entity to a country. The conservation effort of the Tompkins Foundation helped pave the way for Chile to greatly expand its conservation of the pristine Patagonia wilderness.
The Tompkins foundation was established by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the previous CEO of Patagonia, and the late Doug Tompkins, the co-founder of North Face and Esprit. The couple, known for purchasing large chunks of land in Patagonia for conservation, have always had the ambition to protect and conserve the Patagonian wilderness for generations to come.
However, their efforts weren't always well received by the Chilean government and citizens. The Tompkins were accused of attempting to split Chile in two to form a new state or as CIA spies intending to infiltrate the Chilean government. It took decades to build the trust of Chile that their intentions were well founded and this move to donate 1 million acres of land to the Chilean government solidifies their relationship with Chile. Tragically, Doug Tompkins wasn't able to witness the culmination of decades of his work as he passed away in 2015 due to severe hypothermia during a kayaking accident.
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 McDivitt Tompkins said of her late husband.
The Tompkins Foundation of one million acres will help form a network of 17 national parks along Patagonia that spans most of Chile. This donation will aid efforts in rewilding Patagonia, an effort to roll back decades of development and deforestation.
The Chilean government agreed to pledge an additional 10 million acres under Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. This expansion will create five brand new national parks and add acreage to other parks, creating what is called the Route of Parks running North-South along Chile. The total 11 million acres of protected national park land is larger than Denmark and three times larger than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks in the US combined.
The expanded parks are anticipated to aid in Chile's ecotourism, generating an estimated US$270 million per year in revenue and providing over 40,000 jobs to locals. The new protected areas include a diverse collection of ecosystems from deserts to volcanoes to rainforests. With this addition of national park acreage Chile climbs the ranks in countries with the highest percentage of protected land, comparable in percentage to Costa Rica.
The move to greatly expand the Chilean national park system comes with obvious contrasts to today's political environment under the Donald Trump administration, who has rejected climate change, proposed to slash the US Environmental Protection Agency's budget, and roll back important preservation accords.