National Parks are some of the most underrated, yet cherished things a country can have. These parks preserve the environment, cultural sites, sites of economic value, and contribute to the well-being of the public.
It was with these facts in mind that Chile has moved to designate another 11 million acres of formerly private land and wetlands as national parks.
The Tompkins Foundation spurred on the designation, donating 1 million acres of their land to Chile for national parks to be formed. It’s the largest private land donation in history.
The foundation was established by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia, and her late husband Doug Tompkins, who co-founded Espirit and North Face.
In the 1990s, the Tompkins bought large swaths of land in Patagonia strictly to protect from development. In the beginning, they met with a great deal of resistance from the Chilean government, who accused them of being spies for the CIA and attempting to establish a new Jewish state.
But the hatchet has been fully buried. President Michelle Bachelet, in honor of their donation, agreed to expand national parkland in the country by another 4 million hectares. It will create five new national parks and create a 17-park network that will span the country.
These new parks will have more land mass than Denmark.
“I wish my husband Doug, whose vision inspired today’s historic pledge, were here on this memorable day. Our team and I feel his absence deeply,” Kristine Tompkins told the crowd at the announcement of the donation.
“But I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry.”