Billionaire environmentalist Douglas Tompkins plans to donate more than a million acres of land in Patagonia to create national parks, the Santiago Times reports.
Tompkins, retired founder of the North Face and co-founder of Esprit, has been buying land in Chile for nearly twenty-five years and plans to transfer the land from the Conservation Land Trust — a private company he set up to manage his estates — to the Chilean government with the sole condition that it be made into several national parks. The largest section of the proposed donation, Pumalín Park in the Los Lagos Region, encompasses 742,000 acres at the gateway to Patagonia proper. Cabo León, comprising 65,000 acres in the Magallanes Region, and Ex Estancia Chacabuco, a 200,000-acre tract in the Aysén Region, also are likely to be donated. Last December, Tompkins donated 94,000 acres to create Yendegaia National Park in southern Tierra del Fuego.
While news of the donation has generated a positive response, creating and operating new national parks in the region will entail considerable costs for the state, said Francisco Squeo, a professor at the Universidad de La Serena. "Paths, guards, huts, all this costs money, money that the government will have to pay," said Squeo. "And right now [the Chilean government] only budgets about a fourth of what [most] other countries do for national parks and nature reserves....The government needs to stimulate other options, like the private sector."