After enjoying a fabulous yacht charter holiday on board The Pacific Wave in 2015, last year we decided to try something a little different and visited Parque Pumalin in Chile. Parque Pumalin is Chile’s foremost National Conservation Land Trust initiative.
In the middle of the longest country in the world sits a unique nature sanctuary in a temperate rain forest on the edge of a fjord. Chile’s national park is world-class.
Billionaire Douglas Tompkins, former owner of the clothing company Esprit, bought the Reñihué Ranch in 1991 with the intention of protecting its 42,000 acres of evergreen temperate rain forest from exploitation. Exploitation of the rain forests was happening elsewhere in Chile at alarming rates. Logging was decimating the country’s natural forests. Tompkins and his wife, Christine, in association with The Conservation Land Trust (a US environmental foundation) have since added another 700,000 acres, establishing Parque Pumalín as a Nature Sanctuary, a special designation of the Chilean state.
Environmental and Non-developmental Protection of National Parks
The size of the park is similar to Yosemite National Park in California. As a special designation of the state it is granted additional environmental and non developmental protection. The Conservation Land Trust donated the land to Fundación Pumalín, a Chilean foundation, for the administration and continual development of this unique type of National Park. Public access is granted under private initiative but no industrial activity is allowed. Neither the Foundation nor the Park receives any financial assistance from the Chilean government.
A New Form of Private Environmental Philanthropy in Chile
Being a new form of private environmental philanthropy in Chile, the project met with political opposition, primarily from those not understanding how such an initiative might work, but also from those who questioned Tompkins’s motives. He had in fact brought an entire section of Chile, stretching from the water to the Argentine border. In effect he had established a private domain in the lower middle half of the country. In the years since Tompkins bought the land and established the park, confidence in his altruistic intentions has grown and the project is advancing locally and nationally and internationally. It is now considered by some to be the world’s most important conservationist project.
Small Farms with Productive Activities
The small farm industry at Parque Pumalin includes animal husbandry, cheese-making, honey production, eco-tourism, wool handicrafts, and organic gardens which function as park stations and visitor help centers. The main idea being fostered is that conservation and a productive contribution to the local economy can work hand in hand.
The Conservation Land Trust
The guardians of the Conservation Trust are aware of the need to include ‘neighbors’ as partners in its conservation of land, and aim to create a shared feeling for the need to protect wild land and biodiversity. No less a primary objective is to provide a place for Chileans and international visitors to experience pristine nature, to have a heightened understanding of the magic and beauty of the natural world, and, become, it is hoped, more active in their daily lives in valuing and protecting nature.
Douglas Tompkins and the partners of the Conservation Trust are hopeful that Parque Pumalin in Chile can set an example for other private gestures, not just at a large scale, but at any level. Nature philanthropy has been responsible for thousands of projects all over the world, protecting and securing nature lands, animal and plant life, forest, prairies, deserts, and wherever natural habitats are endangered.