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Publishing a park: Corcovado debuts in Santiago and Puerto Varas

Corcovado National Park is a 726,000-acre wilderness of shimmering lakes and snow-capped mountains anchored by the Corcovado volcano, often called “the Matterhorn of South America.” In 2005, Corcovado became Chile’s newest national park when then-president Ricardo Lagos inaugurated it, securing lasting protection for this marvelous landscape. Corcovado is a proud testament to the power of public-private collaboration: its creation was spurred by the largest-ever donation of private land to Chile’s national park system, which came jointly from American philanthropist Peter Buckley and the Conservation Land Trust.

Looking out over Corcovado Volcano

Two weeks ago, the Conservation Land Trust hosted two book launch events—one on the 6th of August in Puerto Varas, the other on 8th in Santiago.  Celebrating the publication of Corcovado served as an occasion to highlight the power of public-private conservation partnerships, discuss the enduring value of national parks, and generate enthusiasm for wilderness conservation in general.

Invitation to the event in Santiago

Santiago book launch

At the Santiago book launch, Doug Tompkins was joined by Carlos Cuevas, former director of Fundación Pumalín, former president Ricardo Lagos, and former commander in Chief Juan Emilio Cheyre.  Each of these men was instrumental to the completion of the Corcovado project, from Doug’s tenacious idea-building, to Lagos’ visionary leadership, to Cheyre’s reimagination of the value of public lands from a military standpoint.

Doug and former president Ricardo Lagos

Around two hundred members of the public were in attendance, including the United States Ambassador to Chile, environmental movement leaders, representatives from CONAF (the Chilean Parks’ Service) and the Aysén region, and members of the press.  Doug addressed the assembly with his excitement about the book launch, and also with some hopeful yet cautionary words about the importance of conservation: “there is enormous pressure on our ecosystems with the expansion of human development…. We must believe in national parks, and always remember the importance of wilderness protected areas for the defense of biodiversity.”

Doug addresses the audience

Corcovado National Park is a lush photo tour of Chile’s new coastal jewel, and a wonderful collection of stories narrating its creation.  Corcovado is heavy with page upon page of stunning landscapes and wildlife closeups from the park by photographer Antonio Vizcaíno.

Corcovado is not only a testament to the beauty of this nearly untouched wilderness, but also a monument to the dedicated, visionary people who worked from different angles to make this massive conservation effort a reality.  Accounts from the key players in the park’s foundation allow the reader to see the challenges and lasting value of large-scale conservation efforts.  Former president Ricardo Lagos believes the ongoing work of conservation will continue, for the betterment of Chile.  “This is a truly great challenge,” he writes, “to enjoy these fjords, bays, valleys, kales, forests, volcanoes, and mountains—to make them available for research, education, recreation and tourism—in a way that leaves them intact and healthy forever.”

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Conservation connections across continents

Unfamiliar landscapes and new models for protecting them can provide invaluable insight for saving our home places.  Field trips to different conservation projects combine work and play, giving invaluable perspective and forming new connections.  In June and July, Doug and Kris traveled to the Serengeti and Namibia to visit conservation colleagues—and watch a spectacular array of wildlife.

One of the last stops of their trip was with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which is dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild in face of ever-mounting environmental and developmental pressures.  Kris met Laurie Marker, CCF’s founder and CEO, years ago, but never before had the chance to see her cheetah conservation work in action.   When Laurie heard Doug and Kris planned to visit Namibia, she asked them to act as the special guest speakers at the CCF 14th Annual Gala, in Windhoek, Namibia.  The gala, themed “Making Strides for Cheetahs,” honored key Namibians and Cheetah Conservation Fund staff and volunteers who are at the forefront of cheetah conservation.

Kris and Doug were were delighted to act as special guest speakers for the event.  They recounted their tale of conservation, and made an impassioned call to the audience to pursue the work of conservation and philanthropy with dedication.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip, however, was this moment:

Kris: “Yesterday with Laurie Marker here in Namibia.  I was in heaven!”

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