On October 2, on Chile’s National Environment Day, President Michelle Bachelet signed the decree creating Cerro Castillo National Park and extending Isla Magdalena National Park. The re-categorization of Cerro Castillo National Park, formerly a national reserve, will not only increase the protection status of this refuge for huemul deer, but will also protect one of the most distinctive landscapes in the region of Aysén. This decree will also create a destination for tourists that will directly benefit the towns of Puerto Ibáñez and Villa Cerro Castillo.
With the creation and expansion of these two parks, the process initiated by the Protocol of Agreement signed on March 15, 2017 between the Government and Tompkins Conservation has officially started. The Protocol calls for the creation of the “Network of National Parks of Chilean Patagonia,” which will add more than 10 million acres of national parklands. This is the largest creation of national parks in the last 50 years; a public-private effort, an historic legacy and hopefully an impetus for the consolidation of a system of protected areas on a global level.
As said by the President during the signing of these decrees, “Someone might ask: Is this an extravagance or a luxury, perhaps?” Like her, we think not, because this protection makes these places available to national and foreign visitors and opens up opportunities for economic development for the surrounding towns, through nature tourism and associated services.
Tourism stands as the main economic driver and the most sustainable option for these regions. National parks are the best way to increase the value of a landscape, and to make known the international recognition and to make known these attributes from a conservation instrument of long tradition and international recognition.