January 25, 2019 A Gift of Land
Thanks to the Tompkins Conservation foundation, South America gains vast new parklands in what’s dubbed as history’s greatest donation of land from a private actor to a country.
While Brazilian nature is under threat of the new Bolsonaro regime, the continent’s other two giants – Argentina and Chile – are choosing a greener path. On December 5, the Argentine Congress ratified the creation of Iberá National Park in the wetlands of the Northeast. The new national park adds to the adjacent Iberá Provincial Park. At a combined approximately 7,100 km2 (1.8-million acres), Iberá Park is now the largest nature park in Argentina and one of the most biologically diverse areas of the country.
Similarly, Chile signed a decree that will add 40,500 km2 (10 million acres) – approximately the size of Switzerland – of new national parklands to its protected areas.
This green path has largely been facilitated by the UN Environment Patron of Protected Areas Kristine Tompkins, President of Tompkins Conservation. This former CEO of Patagonia, Inc. and her late husband Douglas Tompkins (founder of the North Face and cofounder of Esprit clothing companies) left the business world in the early 1990s, moved to Patagonia and turned their entrepreneurial talents towards nature conservation. Over the years, they purchased over 85,000 km2 (2.1 million acres) of land in Chile and Argentina, and after becoming some of the largest private land owners in the world they started giving it away.
The Ibéra National Park in Argentina was made possible by the donations managed by Kristine Tompkins, as well as the 40.500 km2 (1 million acres) laying the ground for the new Pumalín National Park and Patagonia National Park in Chile – billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country.
PHOTO: Juan Ramón Díaz Colodraro