Tompkins Conservation, Chilean government pledge to protect 11 million acres of land

This is the largest creation of protected land in Chile’s history, President Michelle Bachelet said.

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, have signed a pledge to protect a swath of land three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined, Tompkins Conservation announced late Wednesday night. This is the greatest mass of land to be protected in Chilean history.

Tompkins and her late husband, Doug, devoted much of their lives to conservation efforts, especially in the Patagonia region of South America. Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and co-founder of Esprit, died in a kayaking accident in Patagonia last year. Tompkins Conservation is donating a little over 1 million acres of land, and the Chilean government is pledging about 10 million acres. Five new national parks will be created, and three others will be expanded.

Together, all of that protected land will form the “Route of Parks,” a 17-park network that will span 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt, in central Chile, to Cape Horn, at its southernmost tip.

The Route of Parks is expected to be an economic boon to the country, with Tompkins Conservation estimating revenue potential of about $270 million of ecotourism-related revenue each year. More than 40,000 jobs could be supported in the region.

Tompkins Conservation and its key partners have committed to create a Chilean-based Friends of National Parks foundation to contribute ongoing support.

“I wish my husband Doug, whose vision inspired today’s historic pledge, were here on this memorable day,” Kristine Tompkins said in a press release. “Our team and I feel his absence deeply. 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.”