A Grand Day for Chile: Tompkins Conservation Signs Historic National Park Pledge
In March, we celebrated the incredible accomplishment of Kris and Doug Tompkins: a one million acre pledged donation of parkland to the Government of Chile, the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, with great generosity, committed an additional nine million acres of federally owned land to create five new national parks—including Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park—and expand three others.
Among those in attendance at the small protocol signing ceremony at Pumalín Park were Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, Rick and Jennifer Ridgeway, and Jimmy Chin. The crew had intended to visit Patagonia Park to climb the famed Cerro Kristine—named for Kris by her late husband and partner in conservation Doug—but found themselves rerouted at the last minute for the signing ceremony.
Patagonia Park has been intertwined with Patagonia, Inc. for decades, from Yvon and Doug’s first trip to Patagonia in the 1960s to employees who volunteered to remove fences on old sheep ranches to filmmakers, runners and explorers who shared inspiring stories of the good work happening in Chile.
At this pivotal moment, let’s take a look back—to both the near and distant past—and reflect on the projects, people and campaigns that supported the largest park creation effort in our lifetime.
“There were 150 of us—team members, high government officials, our delegation from Ventura and, standing at attention, the local fire department—all grouped in a semicircle at the Pumalín Park headquarters. When Kris and President Bachelet appeared walking hand in hand down the road to the signing there wasn’t a dry eye in the group, including me, and I never cry!”
—Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, Inc., March 2017
“This represents an enormous milestone for Kris, who, alongside her late husband Doug Tompkins, has worked for more than two decades to protect some of the most ecologically diverse and stunningly beautiful landscapes in the world from development so future generations can continue to enjoy the pristine nature of the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina. The Tompkins’s tenacity and passion is a major inspiration for us all as our company continues to fight for the protection of Bears Ears and other public lands here in the United States, as well as conservation efforts in every corner of the world.”
—Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, Inc., March 2017
“When first we started thinking about Valle Chacabuco becoming a national park, it was overrun and overgrazed from years of sheep ranching. Since then, volunteers from around the world have removed over 400 miles of fencing so native guanaco can have the freedom to roam. Condors and puma have rebounded, the endangered huemul deer is making a comeback and even more unimaginable success stories can be attributed to Kris and Doug and the creation of these parks.”
—Malinda Chouinard, co-author of Family Business: Innovative On-Site Child Care Since 1983, March 2017
“I was so proud of Kris, as I’ve known her since she was a teenage surfer girl living next door at Mondos Beach. She was our CEO at Patagonia during the very early high-growth tumultuous years. Doug I’ve known since he was a school dropout at 15, learning to climb in the Shawangunks with our vulgarian friends. To have these two juvenile delinquent/entrepreneur friends go on to create nearly 11 million acres of new national parks in Chile is a historical event without precedent. In comparison, Yellowstone National Park is only 2.3 million acres.”
—Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, Inc., March 2017
“Kris and her husband Doug have built this park using private donations and philanthropy. It reminded me of a sign that Doug used to have above his desk when he owned the woman’s apparel company Esprit. It said, ‘Commit and then figure it out.’”
—Rick Ridgeway, Vice President of Public Engagement for Patagonia, Inc., June 2015
“After multiple ferry rides, two days driving on dirt roads, we have arrived at Estancia Valle Chacabuco, in remote Patagonia. Kris Tompkins, as part of the Patagonia Land Trust, purchased the former sheep and cattle ranch in 2004. Overgrazing had taken its toll on the land so all the farm animals have been relocated. The goal is to restore healthy soils and open wildlife corridors by removing the 450 miles of fence line that winds through the 170,000 acres of mountains and valleys. The Patagonia clothing company has a program that encourages its employees to volunteer three weeks of their time down here, pulling up fences, all expenses paid. Makohe, Keith, Yvon and I showed up just in time to put in our time as well.”
—Jeff Johnson, excerpted from the book 180° South, May 2011
“Our mission for the first half of our stay was to remove exotic plant species from one section of the park. Thistle, lamb’s ear, and Cicuta were our main targets. Their seeds tend to travel along the road, carried by livestock or vehicles. The purple thistle flowers and yellow lamb’s ear blooms were easy to spot, but it was the never-ending groves of tall, fibrous Cicuta that nearly broke us. You could spend an hour freeing a cluster of trees, only to round the corner to find another grove 20-feet wide.”
—Colin Pile and Alison Kelman, Patagonia employees, May 2014
“That is where we spent the majority of the next three weeks, with views of Andean glaciers and ice fields. I expected we would spend some time pulling fence, but did not expect to be fully entrusted with long tracts for days at a time. We spent hours pulling and coiling wires, pulling pickets and posts, moving and piling everything. We got dirt under our fingernails, in our ears, in our hair, and down our backs. We got sunburned, bug bitten, and covered in burrs. We thrived on Nescafé, mutton and cheese sandwiches. We drank mate, vino, pisco and cervezas. Nights were filled with laughter and aching groans.”
—Andy Mitchell, Patagonia employee, March 2007
“The wind gusts, blowing spray from the water lapping on the banks of Lago General Carrera. Here I stand, eyes closed, feeling the cool mist on my sunburnt cheeks. When I open my eyes it’s still there, it feels like a dream, but it’s not—Patagonia spreads out all around me. I’ve long dreamt of seeing this place and now it’s blowing my mind. After imagining over and over what it would be like, how it would smell, how it would feel, it is far more than I had imagined it would be. The previous 39 hours have been a blur of driving, airports, flying, airports, loading gear, and more driving. But now it’s quiet, except for the sound of the wind blowing across the lake.”
—Luke Nelson, Patagonia ambassador, December 2014
“This section was so spectacular that we couldn’t help yelling to each other “Look there!” or “Crazy!” or “I can’t believe this place!” Mountain running takes you to a lot of special, wild places, but this one was beyond words. I only hope to take my kids back there some day to see it.”
—Jeff Browning, Patagonia ambassador, March 2015
Plan Your Visit
Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park offer the adventurous traveler a plethora of opportunities for exploration, wildlife-watching, learning and relaxing. Both parks are open all year, however, October through April are the best months to visit, as those are the warmer, more travel-friendly times with ample daylight. Please visit the websites for Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park to learn more and plan your visit.