Behold! A National Park Is Born

1600px-Cuernos_del_Paine_from_Lake_PehoéDouglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face and Esprit clothing companies has left a truly inspiring legacy with his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins in the creation of one of the world’s greatest national parks.  Chile has agreed to the establishment of a park in Patagonia stretching 10 million acres.  The park was based on land purchases for $345 million by the couple to protect this gorgeous and unique place. I cannot imagine a greater gift to humanity.

While my love for hiking has taken me all around the world, I have never gone to Patagonia (which remains at the top of my wish list).

Patagonia Park will stretch from Hornopirén, 715 miles south of the capital, Santiago, to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America.  The couple committed most of their fortune to save this area and the New York Times has some truly lovely pictures.

The sad part is that Douglas Tompkins died at 72 in December 2015 so he never saw the achievement of an act that will make him and Kristine legends.  He died after a kayaking accident in Patagonia and, as someone who loves the outdoors, I view that as a fitting end to one of the world’s greatest environmentalists.

Honoring the Tompkins’ however should not take away from the incredible decision of the Chilean government. The Tompkins donated roughly one million acres.  The Chilean government under the Bachelet administration ponied up with an additional nine million acres.  It is a moving victory for not just environmentalist but humanity.

Thank You Doug and Kristine Tompkins and the Chilean people.

Now I can get busy trying to find a way to Patagonia Park.


24 thoughts on “Behold! A National Park Is Born”

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  2. That is truly a loving gift to the world.

    There was some controversy in the creation of this Park. The Tompkins wanted to remove livestock grazing, which is damaging to the fragile cold, dry grasslands and alpine areas. So they used their vast wealth, as foreign rich people, to buy up land over the years and kick out ranches. They protect the puma, or mountain lion, that attacks calves. The ranches were made up of actual Chileans trying to make a living. Then they built high end resorts for wealthy travelers. In addition, much of the hiking is quite intense, and requires crossing icy river after icy river. It’s beyond the scope of most travelers, to travel to remote Patagonia to hike very rugged terrain.

    I encountered this in South America, too. Desperate people farming and ranching don’t care about the environment; they just want to eat. Rich foreigners lecture them about conservation, but are completely out of touch with the struggle for human survival in these third world countries.

    The Tompkins’ argument is that they believe that tourism will create more jobs and revenue than ranching. That may be, and for the former ranchers’ sake, I certainly hope so. The terrain is remote and difficult to traverse. In their defense, it is my understanding that the Tompkins paid the ranchers for the land.

    I think that conservation needs to become less antagonistic to farmers, ranchers, and other landowners, and instead learn how to work in partnership. Less disdain and condescension, and more help.

    There are landowners in the US who would kill an endangered species on their land, rather than let it be discovered by scientists, because it would cause them to lose their entire livelihood. If finding a toad in your lawn meant that you would immediately lose your home and your job, and all the money you put into your mortgage, and your kids would be destitute, would you report that toad to the EPA? People sink all of their savings into land and then are told they can’t build. Or they are told they need to move, and cannot sell their house, offered a pittance from the government if anything.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. Scientists are fully capable of working with landowners for their mutual gain.

  3. Always nice to hear a story about people doing good things. I hope you get there to enjoy it in person Professor Turley.

  4. Having traveled around the world as a young person, I recall few specifics of the scenery. What I recall in more detail are the people I met along the way.

    1. CPB – that’s interesting – how did you travel? I’ve been throughout Western Europe via train mostly and I remember the landscapes/city scapes vividly – as well as people. Slow travel versus flying makes a difference to me.

  5. National Parks have basically become land trusts being held at tax payer expense until corporate interests feel the economic environment is ripe to exploit them and do so via politicians such as Trump or Hillary (in this case the Chilean equivalent) giving them first mineral and/or carbon based extraction rights followed by full development and outright land grants when sufficient corporate donations are sloshing around in the politicians’ off-shore accounts.

    It’s true, however, that until that time, they are protected (more often than not at tax payer expense) and can be enjoyed usually by the elite .01% (including “scientific” expeditions), and small sections by the few tourists who can afford to get there, which – I suppose – is better than no one.

    For the wildlife, it’s a reprieve of sorts, until the above or until humans polish themselves off.

  6. Was I 20 years younger, I would be in, but my health cannot tolerate now. I will have to enjoy it through your pictures. 😉

  7. So JT is eyeballing a Patagonia Expedition with posters. You may not want go back to the U.S. if you go.

    Check out this drone video shot in 4k HD.

  8. Copper Canyon or Canon Cobre on the border of Sonora and Chihuahua unknown to most gringos is larger, wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon and comes with a great set of hiking trails. Does take an adventuresome spirit in semi good condition though.

  9. Let’s go! All the regular commenters on this blog deserve a fun vacation. Count me in!

  10. “If anything can save the world, I’d put my money on beauty” – Douglas Tompkins

  11. What a fantastic story. The mountains are calling and you must go. 🙂

    “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
    ― John Muir

  12. I encourage going. First of all, learn enough touristic Spanish! Second, find a suitable tour organizer and sign up with them. If you don’t then you will need to be absolutely good at Latin American Spanish, suitable for both Chile and Argentina. Also, you will have to carry more cash than I would be comfortable doing in those circumstances.

    And no, at 77 years old I’ll just look at the photos, thank you.

  13. I am under the impression that the land is organized into 17 national parks, but this is just administrative convenience.

  14. Words cannot fully express nor bestow sufficient credit to the magnanimity of such a bequeathing.

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