Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.
More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.
The expansion includes 1 million acres of land donated by Tompkins Conservation, in what is believed to be the largest private donation of land ever from a private entity to a country.
The decree included the creation of Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park, the conservation organization’s two flagship projects, while expanding others to help create the “Route of Parks,” a 17-park route spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn in the continent’s southern tip.
“This is not only an unprecedented preservation effort,” Bachelet said at the official ceremony in Pumalín Park. “It’s also an invitation to imagine other ways of rationally occupying our lands, of creating other economic activities, of using natural resources without preying on them. In other words, it’s about generating sustainable development.”
McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of
Patagonia, along with her late husband Doug Tompkins, who founded North Face and Esprit, have dedicated a quarter of a century towards conservation efforts and land acquisition to ensure protection of wildlife and wildlands in Chile and Argentina.
Doug Tompkins died in December 2015 in a kayaking accident but his conservation legacy continues. To date, Tompkins Conservation has donated roughly two million acres of land for conservation purposes, and together with governments and other partners, has protected roughly 13 million acres in total.
“I am proud of my husband Doug and his vision which continues to guide us, in addition to our entire team, for completing these two national parks and the broader network, a major milestone of our first 25 years of work,” McDivitt Tompkins
said. “While we will continue to help promote and safeguard these parks, we are beginning to turn our attention to more new conservation and rewilding projects in Chile and Argentina as we work to save and restore big, wild and connected ecosystems.”