Kristine McDivitt Tompkins

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American philanthropist Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former CEO Patagonia, Inc. and the Chilean government join to Add 10 Million Acres of Protected Parkland in Historic First.

On January 29, (one day before U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address) Chilean President Michelle Bachelet officially declared a major expansion of Chile's parklands, creating two new national parks and signing into protection vast areas of the country's rainforests, grasslands, and other threatened plants, trees and terrains.

“The announcement represents a major achievement for public-private conservation.  In what's being billed the world’s largest donation of privately held land, American philanthropist Kristine Tompkins—the co-founder of Tompkins Conservation, along with her late husband Doug Tompkins—has handed over slightly more than a million acres of land to Chile.  The Chilean government, for its part, has contributed nearly nine million acres of federally-owned land.  In all, the newly designated parkland is roughly the size of Switzerland.” Elizabeth Royte and Michael Greshko, National Geographic, Published January 29, 2018

By partnering with the government, the Tompkins’ Conservation team is leveraging its land donations and hopes to add at least 13 million acres to the Chilean and Argentine national parks system.

“This is a day we've been working toward for twenty-some years,” said Tompkins in an interview days before the announcement. “It's like watching your chicks fledge,” California native, Tompkins said.  Tompkins began her prominent career in the shipping department before serving as the first CEO of the clothing company Patagonia and before marrying Doug Tompkins (1943-2015), Co-Founder of The North Face and Esprit clothing companies.  The couple spent nearly a quarter century acquiring land in southern Chile and restoring it to wilderness.

In the early 1990’s, the Tompkins moved to Chile to help create wilderness parks.  The idea to start creating national parks was inspiration for them to turn their entrepreneurial talents toward philanthropy.  They co-founded Tompkins Conservation dedicating their lives to creating national parks, helping re-wild landscapes, investing in ecological agricultural, including hemp, and supporting grassroots activism.

The Tompkins have protected over 2 million acres of land in South America, more than any other individuals in history and helped establish five new national parks.  “The parks we have created will be seen as a marker as for what’s possible in importance in maintaining beauty as a value,” Kristine explains is her hope and went on to say, “Whoever you are and whatever you are good at, you get out of bed every morning and you do something, you act, you step into the fray and you fight for a human society that is in balance with the natural world.”

In 2015, Doug Tompkins, while on a 30 km kayak trip with friends around the north side of General Carrera Lake, bordering Argentina and Chile, capsized.  After many hours, airlifted by helicopter, Tompkins did not survive the accident.  He is remembered for preserving approximately 2.2 million acres of land in Chile and Argentina with his wife.  He had created five national parks and before his death, was working on conserving 7 more.

One day after the historic announcement by Chile, on January 30, President Trump’s State of the Union Address did not include any mention of conservation or environmental issues (CNN GPS, Fareed Zakaria, February 11, 2018).  The GOP remains the only major political party in the developed world to oppose the widely accepted science behind human-made global warming as a platform issue.

However, two individuals with a powerful vision have changed the world for the better by protecting nature's endangered preserves.

By: Maria Calabrese, Founder Green Bee Life

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