New national park set for Chile’s Tierra del Fuego

A generous donation from a US billionaire and outdoor enthusiast lays foundation for new conservation at the edge of the world.

A pristine, rugged landscape full of fjords, glaciers, forest, and a coastline cut by the Beagle Channel, the soon to be opened Yendegaia National Park at the very southern tip of Chile aims to conserve the area’s rare and unique beauty.

The park is being created through the generous donation of  94,000 acres by Doug Tompkins, conservationist and the founder of gear and outdoor clothing giant The North Face, and an additional 274,000 acres promised by Chilean President Sebastían Piñera, who will visit in January for its inauguration.

Tompkins originally bought the land, which includes the southern tip of Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego that reaches out into the Yendegaia bay, in 1998 through his U.S. based charity, the Conservation Land Trust. He and his wife Kris then set up the Conservación Patagonica, dedicated to protecting the natural wonder of Patagonia.

Nadine Lehner, the executive director of Conservación Patagonica, spoke to The Santiago Times about what makes this new park so special.

“It’s some of the last subantarctic forest there, which is a remnant from the days of the Gondwana supercontinent,” she said. “There are three endangered species there, the red fox, the river otter, and the ruddy breasted goose, as well as a broad range of native fauna. In fact, they’ve identified 128 species of vascular plants and 49 bird species native to the area.”

The Yendegaia National park will border the Argentine Tierra del Fuego National Park and Chile’s Padre Alberto de Agostini National Park. Previously a cattle ranch, the new park will serve as a bridge between the two already protected areas, allowing for the free flow of wildlife through the region.

The park will be open to the public in January, and both the Chilean government and Tompkins are excited to see this project become a reality.

“This is a historical moment,” Douglas Tompkins told local press. “Like all creations of national parks, it is really gratifying to be a part of it.”