New flagship park in Chilean Patagonia to open by 2012
The Patagonia National Park from Kristine Tompkins’ Conservación Patagonica Foundation will cover 460,000 acres of wilderness between Lakes Cochrane and General Carrera.
Friday, May 27, 2011
The new 200,000 acres (80 ha) park will convert defunct sheep estancia in one of the purest and most rugged regions of the Chilean south.
Doug and Kristine Tompkins, the creators of Pumalin Park in Los Lagos Region, expect their new park project in the remote southern reaches of Chile’s Aysén to be operational by 2012.
The new 200,000 acres (80 ha) park will convert defunct sheep estancia in one of the purest and most rugged regions of the Chilean south, connecting two areas already protected by Chile’s National Forestry Commission (Conaf), the Jeinimeni and Tamango National Reserves.
The Tompkins are best known in Chile for creating and maintaining Pumalin Park, a unique private conservation enterprise that has been responsible for establishing some of Chile’s best nature tourism and infrastructure.
Helmed by Kristine Tompkins’ foundation Conservación Patagonica, the project in southern Patagonia will begin by acquiring land, establishing trails, lodges and other park infrastructure.
But unlike Pumalin Park, which remains in private hands, the newly developed territory will be turned over to Chilean authorities to create Patagonia National Park, which, together with the two adjacent reserves, will cover 460,000 acres (186 ha).
Stretched between two of Chile’s largest and most beautiful lakes, Cochrane and General Carrera, the Patagonia National Park project is more than a preservation effort – it is a recovery project that will reclaim the land of the historic Valle Chacabuco sheep estancia and return it to the wilderness from which it was once carved.
Including wetlands, Patagonian steppe, high Andean peaks and temperate beech forests, the territory that will be encompassed by Patagonia National Park is also an important habitat for the endangered Huemul, an endemic species of deer.
Conaf has listed Valle Chacabuco as a top priority preservation area for the more than thirty years, but, according to Conservación Patagonica, it has lacked the funds necessary to purchase the privately owned land.
Having completed the land acquisition process, Conservación Patagonica has begun building a comprehensive infrastructure, with the small lodge within the property already ranked by National Geographic as one of the best in the country.
The organization also aims to make Patagonia National Park the first major park area that is entirely energy independent, powered by small-scale, renewable energy sources.
Community engagement will be another key aim of the new park, assisting in the region’s transition from a dying and unsustainable sheep grazing industry to the emergent ecotourism and conservation sector. Conservación Patagonica has taken the first steps in this process by offering training and work to the former gauchos as conservation workers and park rangers.
By building comprehensive park infrastructure, Tompkins and Conservación Patagonica aim to transform the area into one of Chile’s flagship park areas. “Though very few people visit us now,” Tompkins told La Tercera, “I believe that Aysén has the same potential as Torres del Paine, which 40 years ago wasn’t very well known.”