American Conservation Philanthropists Receive Highest Biodiversity Conservation Award in Latin America


BBVA Foundation Awardee Kristine Tompkins Meets with Argentina’s President to Create the Country’s Largest Park

Media Contact: Astrid Vargas,

September 23, 2016—Buenos Aires—The BBVA Foundation has awarded the 2016 Biodiversity Conservation Award of Latin America to the Conservation Land Trust, a Tompkins Conservation foundation. This is the highest award that exists worldwide in the field of biodiversity conservation and has been awarded to Tompkins Conservation for “their great contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in Chile and Argentina through the creation and expansion of eight large protected areas that span over one million hectares, gifted to the respective governments for public access.” The award also recognizes the range of Tompkins Conservation programs such as private land purchase, habitat restoration, endangered species recovery, and the creation of economic alternatives in collaboration with local communities. The other winners of the award include Grupo para la Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona y su Hábitat (GREFA), and journalist Carlos de Hita for his evocative “soundscapes” of nature.

The BBVA Foundation Award committee also recognized, posthumously, “the vision and leadership of Douglas Tompkins, founder of the Conservation Land Trust, and the value of altruistic participation in the conservation of nature.” Douglas died in December 2015 in a kayak accident on a lake in Chilean Patagonia.

Currently Tompkins Conservation is working in partnership with government to create six new national parks in Chile and Argentina, expand four existing parks, and help recover 12 endangered species of fauna. The total area preserved after the creation of these 15 national and 2 provincial parks will be over 6 million hectares (the size of six Yellowstone National Parks), presenting the world’s largest private land donation initiative for biodiversity conservation.

On the same day that the award became public, Kristine Tompkins met with the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, in the president’s official residence, to arrange the donation of Conservation Land Trust lands in order to create Iberá National Park. Once the donation is complete, the joint Iberá National Park and Iberá Provincial Park will be the largest protected natural area in Argentina. Tompkins Conservation has developed the most ambitious rewilding program in the Americas in Iberá, with the reintroduction of at least six locally extinct species of wildlife, including the jaguar, the largest cat in the Americas. Tompkins Conservation cooperates with authorities, companies, and foundations surrounding the park so that the approximately 100,000 people living in this vast region can benefit from the ecotourism that already exists in Iberá and is expected to increase dramatically with the creation of the new national park.

Douglas and Kristine Tompkins, both entrepreneurs of famous American sportswear brands including The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, Inc., decided to change the course of their lives over two decades ago and devote all their funds, their time and passion to fight the biggest crisis in the world: the crisis of biodiversity loss. After careful analysis of the best way to combat the crisis of biodiversity, Kristine and Douglas concluded that the most effective way would be through the creation of large national parks where evolutionary processes could take their course. National parks represent the “gold standard” of biodiversity conservation, offering a unique set of ecological attributes, cultural values, ​​and economic benefits to local communities, and presenting the best guarantee of long-term conservation. Tompkins Conservation are also leaders in the Americas in what is known as “rewilding”: the task of reintroducing and restoring wildlife species that have disappeared from a region due to human pressures.

The example Douglas and Kristine Tompkins have made in the field of nature-focused philanthropy is exemplary. Their generosity, altruism, and commitment to the protection and restoration of wild nature is helping to change the global mindset in the field of philanthropy, which overwhelmingly has focused on cultural and social issues. The positive, hopeful work of the Tompkins Conservation team shows how bold, strategic philanthropy can protect beauty and biodiversity while improving the quality of life and income of people living in rural areas.

About Tompkins Conservation: Tompkins Conservation’s mission is to rewild the planet. We pursue this mission by creating national parks, reintroducing missing species, conserving biodiversity, restoring degraded lands, encouraging environmental activism, and supporting ecological agriculture. This work is accomplished through a group of charitable organizations founded by Kristine and Douglas Tompkins that are known collectively as Tompkins Conservation and through agricultural businesses owned by them personally.

For more information please visit

About Conservation Land Trust (CLT): CLT is dedicated to creating and/or expanding national or provincial parks to ensure the perpetuity of their ecological and evolutionary processes with the strongest long-term protection guarantee possible. CLT also supports programs for the protection of wildlife, reintroduction of locally extinct species, land restoration and programs for local development, normally involved in ecotourism, sustainable farming, and environmental education. Our programs at CLT are sustained by values that are based on an ecocentric view of the world, prioritizing the importance of ecosystems and all forms of life therein, regardless of their use to humans.

For more information please visit:

About the BBVA Foundation: The Foundation engages in the promotion of research, advanced training and the transmission of scientific knowledge to society at large, focusing especially on the analysis of emerging issues in five strategic areas: Environment, Biomedicine and Health, Economy and Society, Basic Sciences and Technology, and Arts and Humanities. The BBVA Foundation designs, develops, and finances research projects in these areas; facilitates advanced, specialist training through grants, courses, seminars and workshops; organizes award schemes for researchers and professionals whose work has contributed significantly to the advancement of knowledge; and communicates and disseminates such new knowledge through publications, debates, and lectures.

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U.S. Media Contact: Alison Kelman –

Chile Media Contact: Carolina Morgado –

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The Corrientes Province Gives National Jurisdiction to Iberá Park, a Big Step Towards the Creation of Iberá National Park


PRESS RELEASE September 7, 2016 — Corrientes Province, Argentina

A Project of The Conservation Land Trust and Tompkins Conservation

On September 1st, the Congressmen and Senators of the Corrientes Province in Argentina passed a law giving jurisdiction to the Argentinean nation over the 341,000 acres of lands owned by The Conservation Land Trust (CLT)—a Tompkins Conservation foundation devoted to the creation of national parks—sited within the Iberá region.

Sometimes called “the Argentine Pantanal,” Iberá is one of the planet’s great freshwater wetlands, covering more than 3.2 million acres (1.3 million hectares) of grasslands and marsh in the Corrientes Province of northeastern Argentina. The landscape supports fabulous wildlife including more than 360 species of birds. Doug and Kris Tompkins were introduced to the area’s biodiversity and conservation potential in the late 1990s. Since then, CLT has purchased several cattle ranches in the region in order to turn them into a national park, while restoring the extirpated fauna in what is now the largest rewilding program in America.

Since Argentina is a highly federal system and provinces have full autonomy on natural resources matters, getting a cession of this jurisdiction was a key step in the creation of the future Iberá National Park. This was especially challenging in a province like Corrientes, which has a long tradition of feeling independent from the Federal Government. The combined efforts of enlightened Correntino legislators, with full support from the provincial governor and CLT staff, made this change possible.

After this milestone, the issue of park creation will continue on to the hands of the Argentinean legislators, so they can establish Iberá National Park by law on what today are CLT lands. We are expecting this to occur in the coming months. When this national park is created, its combined area with the existing and adjacent provincial park will make it the largest conservation park in Argentina, covering over 1.6 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and forests.

Press contact: Ignacio Jimenez at

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Tribute to Douglas Tompkins, Buenos Aires (video in Spanish)

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The Legacy of Doug Tompkins


Doug Tompkins (left), Rick Ridgeway (middle), and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard during the filming of the 2010 documentary ‘180 Degrees South’ in Chile.

By Rick Ridgeway

Rick Ridgeway, one of the North Face founder and conservationist’s closest friends, survived the kayak capsizing that killed his lifelong buddy. Here he reflects on their awful ordeal, on his friend’s burial, and on the lasting gifts that Tompkins leaves behind.

In the days since our friend and mentor Doug Tompkins lost his life in a kayaking incident, we have experienced an outpouring of condolences from thousands of people around the world. The sense of loss from people who never knew Doug, but did know his work, is palpable.

A few days ago, at the headquarters of Tompkins Conservation in the Chilean town of Puerto Varas, we had a service for Doug attended by people from up and down the country and Argentina. Kris, his wife, opened the ceremony and spoke in Spanish of her boundless love for Doug, their love of wildness and their deep commitment to the protection of wilderness and wildlife, and their work to save, then donate, two million acres of land to the people of Chile and Argentina—and to all of us. She spoke with dignity and power, with a force that welled from a place in her we had never witnessed. She gave her full power to each sentence and paragraph. Drained, she paused, breathed, and with each breath the power would rebuild until she continued with an even more profound power that none of us had seen before.

The next day, we flew with Doug’s body in a private plane south to the Patagonia National Park project near the town of Cochrane. The clouds began to break and in front of us the summit of Cerro San Valentin, the highest peak in Patagonia, appeared above the clouds. Kris moved to the cockpit, and our pilot and close friend, Rodrigo, circled the mountain at close distance. It was a spectacular last flight for Doug.

Patagonia National Park was initiated with the purchase of a large sheep estancia, and the cemetery that was part of that ranch is now part of the new park’s buildings and infrastructure. We buried Doug in this cemetery. The dozens of workers and friends in attendance carried in rotation Doug’s casket—simple but impeccably crafted from the wood of the alerce by some of the staff that stayed up the full night finishing it—in a long procession that began from Doug’s beloved Husky airplane, parked in front of the beautiful stone restaurant, and continued along the dirt road past the lodge to the cemetery.

Kris once again showed her mettle and gave a heartfelt tribute to Doug and to the Chilean team who were gathered. After Doug was lowered into the grave, Kris, with great solemnity and dignity, tossed flowers on his coffin. Then, one-by-one, all of us in a procession tossed a handful of dirt on the grave.

The trip started as a four-day paddle along a remote section of Lago General Carrerra, in Patagonian Chile. There were six of us on the trip in two single and two double kayaks. Between us we had well over a hundred years of combined experience. But Doug and I also had a double kayak with a finicky rudder. On the third day of paddling a growing crosswind created challenging conditions, and with our faulty rudder Doug and I were unable to avoid a broaching wave that capsized us.

We knew immediately we were in a grave situation. As the wind and current pushed us toward the center of the lake, we had no way of knowing whether our companions in the other boats—who were ahead of us and out of sight around a point we had been working to round—knew of our predicament. We realized we had about 30 more minutes to survive; the water temperature was perhaps 38 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We tried and failed four times to right the boat and paddle it, but the wind and waves were too strong for us to maintain balance and the boat was too flooded. Eventually, we had to decide whether to attempt to swim or to stay with the capsized boat. The boat, pushed by a perpendicular current, was drifting towards the center of the lake. Staying with it was putting us in an even more difficult if not impossible position.

We decided to abandon the boat and began to swim toward the point. It was tough and I realized, against the current, it was likely impossible to reach the point. Time was also against us. I was slowing and even with a life jacket I was pushed under by the larger waves. I could see Doug and assumed he was in the same situation. I was hypothermic and I was starting to drown. For a few minutes I gave in—just let it go—but then snapped back. Then I saw our companions paddling towards us against the wind—now at about 40 knots with gusts much stronger to 50 knots and more (later confirmed from weather measurements for the lake that day).

Two of our companions, Jib Ellison and Lorenzo Alvarez, reached me in a double kayak. I hung onto the stern loop, still in the water, while they paddled into the wind to reach an eddy behind the point. Between the waves and the wind, there was no point for me to try to get onto the boat. I had to dig deep—I think as deep as I’ve gone. It seemed to take forever. I remained focused on my hands and holding on to the loop until I realized I was on a rock. Then I lost consciousness and my next memory was of lying in front of a fire.

Doug was not so lucky. Our other companion, Weston Boyles (who had been paddling with Yvon Chouinard but left him in order to attempt Doug’s rescue), gave a supreme effort—attempting to paddle Doug to safety but unable to overcome the power of the wind and current. Doug held on for another half-hour, kicking as much as he could, but lost consciousness. Weston risked his own life to keep Doug’s head above water as he fought to reach shore. By the time they landed, Doug was too hypothermic to survive.

In the days that have followed—days that seem like years—“survival” has been a theme that every one of us has raised independent of the other. Specifically, it is this profound realization that Douglas Rainsford Tompkins is surviving, more strongly than ever, inside us. He is pushing on us already, reminding us that “no detail is too small,” inspiring us “to commit and then figure it out,” helping us realize that the first commitment is to beauty because out of beauty comes love, and only with love can we hope to approach his inextinguishable tenacity to protect what is beautiful, what is wild.

After the last handful of earth was tossed on Doug’s grave, one of the locals who had come to pay respects—an older but forceful looking woman—stepped atop the rock wall surrounding the cemetery, raised her fisted arm to the sky, and shouted loudly, “Patagonia Sin Represas!” (“Patagonia without dams!”) The entire crowd returned the call-to-arms: “Patagonia Sin Represas!”

The torch was still lit and the fire still burning brightly.

Rick Ridgeway is Patagonia’s Vice President of Public Engagement and the author of six books. His passion for mountaineering and exploration have taken him around the world, including the summit of K2 where he was part of the first American team to climb the peak in 1978. This article was originally published on Patagonia’s blog, the Cleanest Line, on December 15, 2015.


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Douglas Tompkins: A Force for Nature

Kris and Doug Tompkins

Douglas Tompkins


Press release from Tompkins Conservation [Foundation for Deep Ecology, The Conservation Land Trust, Conservacion Patagonica]

December 8, 2015

Douglas Rainsford Tompkins, 72, one of the Earth’s foremost conservationists, died today following a kayaking accident on Lago General Carrera in Chilean Patagonia. Through charitable organizations he and his wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, founded, the Tompkinses have acquired roughly 2.2 million acres of conservation land, part of which comprises the world’s largest private nature reserve, Pumalin Park in southern Chile. Using persuasive advocacy and land donations to the national park systems of Chile and Argentina, the Tompkinses have helped create five new national parks in South America, expand another, and are working to establish several more. For his parklands protection efforts and organic farming projects, Douglas Tompkins received numerous honors.

A mountaineer with first ascents on multiple continents, Douglas Tompkins was known as the entrepreneur who founded The North Face outdoor retailer and cofounded the Esprit clothing company with his first wife, Susie Tompkins (Buell).  After leaving the business world “to pay his rent for living on the planet,” as Tompkins frequently said, the businessman-turned-conservationist spent the last quarter-century of his life living in South America. Through a suite of charitable organizations (see he worked to create parks, buy and restore degraded farmlands, and help advance conservation activism.

An American citizen, Tompkins’s land acquisitions and environmental activism were sometimes controversial in his adopted home, although he worked with two Chilean presidents of different political parties to establish national parks and was similarly successful in Argentina. His participation in the multiyear campaign to prevent a massive hydroelectric project that would have dammed wild rivers in Chilean Patagonia was crucial. That fight was ultimately won due to the tenacity of dam opponents and Tompkins’s funding and strategic input.

Deeply influenced by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, Tompkins was a supporter of “deep ecology,” believing that a shallow, reform-minded environmentalism was doomed to fail. Only through deep structural changes to society and adoption of an ecocentric land ethic—a belief that humans were but a member of the community of life and not lord over it—would humanity reverse its rush toward, as Tompkins often said, “the dustbin of history.” A vocal critic of megatechnology, Tompkins devoted considerable funding to technology criticism and was widely read in the literature on that topic.

At his core an activist for nature and beauty, Tompkins possessed an incredible love for the wild world he explored in climbing and paddling trips. He combined this with a refined aesthetic sense reflected in the scores of buildings he designed through the years for his parkland and farm restoration projects. After “cheating death” so many times on perilous climbing expeditions to some of the planet’s most remote places, Tompkins was enjoying a kayak camping trip with friends on South America’s second largest lake when the accident occurred.

Douglas Tompkins leaves behind his beloved wife Kristine Tompkins; his mother Faith Tompkins and brother John C. Tompkins of Millbrook, NY; daughter Summer Tompkins Walker and son-in-law Brooks Walker and their children Brooks Thomas Walker, Della Walker, and Susie Kate Walker of San Francisco; daughter Quincey Tompkins Imhoff and son-in-law Dan Imhoff and their children Gardner and Willa Imhoff of Healdsburg, CA.

For those who wish to support the continuation of Douglas Tompkins’s life work, we welcome your contribution to Conservacion Patagonica and the Conservation Land Trust. The work that Kristine and Douglas Tompkins began decades ago is ongoing. Thank you for helping us continue this vital work to restore wildness and create new possibilities for nature and people in Patagonia.

Contact information: Tompkins Conservation (415) 229-9339

Tom Butler,


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