Chile's National Parks Expand by 10 Million Acres
Author: Carol Warwick
Former Patagonia CEO and philanthropist Kristine Tompkins, and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet have announced a historic plan to increase Chile’s national parklands by 10 million acres.
The new national park will amalgamate existing protected parkland with over 1 million acres of restored and protected land (known as Pumalín Park) donated by Tompkins, and a further 9 million acres which will be contributed by the Chilean government.
The newly protected area is 5,000 times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park, the size of Switzerland, and over four times the size of Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
The announcement is the culmination of decades-long work by Tompkins and her late husband and founder of The North Face, Doug Tompkins.
In 1991 the Tompkins purchased 42,000 acres of land in Chile, which was at risk of unsustainable logging and intensive agriculture, and established the Pumalín Project. Their ambition was to contribute toward protecting the Earth’s last remaining wilderness and support natural habitat by transforming the land into a protected park. The project quickly expanded to encompass a much larger area of land which became Pumalín Park.
Pumalín Park, in the Palena Province of Chile, is a vast area of publicly accessible protected temperate rainforest, which stretches down to the ocean and is home to many endemic species. In 2005 the Chilean government declared it a Nature Sanctuary, and the park’s network of trails, campgrounds, information centres, and tourist amenities allow visitors to enjoy the wild landscape.
Of her decision to donate her private land to Chile, Tompkins said in National Geographic: “We could have locked up our land; it would have been cheaper. But if you don’t make your land public, you’re losing half its value” – which she defined as reconnecting people with the natural world.
She added that giving the land to the Chilean government ensures it will be protected by law.
Chile now joins Costa Rica as a nation with one of the highest percentages of protected land in the world.
The land deal will be finalised later this year and the process of transitioning the private land to public protected parkland is expected to take two years.
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