A Switzerland-sized piece of land gains protection in Chile

March 17, 2017, 8:28 a.m.
Landscape on the Chilean side of Patagonia
Photo: Fernando Tatay/Shutterstock

In what's being called the world’s largest donation of privately held land, American philanthropist and former CEO of Patagonia Kristine Tompkins has donated more than 1 million acres of land to the Chilean government. The government is adding to this another nearly 10 million acres of federally owned land. Together, the collaborative effort aims to protect, preserve and return the land to the public.

National Geographic reports:

Assuming the handover goes through, the new and augmented parks, though not contiguous, will cover an area slightly larger than Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park. It will also feature some of Chile’s most stunning scenery, including perennially snow-capped peaks, red-rock canyons, glaciated fjords, whitewater rivers, and coastal volcanoes.

Tompkins says the gift follows in the grand tradition of wildlands philanthropy that established so many U.S. national and state parks, refuges, and monuments. It includes the Tompkins’ marquee properties, Pumalín and Patagonia Parks, plus land that will expand two existing national parks (Hornopirén and Corcovado) and one national reserve (Alacalufes), in addition to a collection of lodges, visitor centers, and campgrounds worth tens of millions of dollars.

With ecotourism as a primary goal, the effort aims to bring jobs to local communities and long-term conservation of the unique habitat and species of the area.

If the hand-over goes through as planned, there will be yet another wonderful reason to visit the Chilean Patagonia and explore its rich biodiversity and culture.