Category Archives: Who We Are

President of Chile, Tompkins Conservation Sign Historic Pledge to Create 11 Million Acres of New National Parks

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Photo: Linde Waidhofer

Pledge includes the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country

PUMALÍN PARK, CHILE (March 15, 2017) – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, leader of Tompkins Conservation, today signed a pledge to dramatically expand national parkland in Chile by approximately 11 million acres. The proposal includes the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country; the total area to be protected, via this private land donation plus government land, is three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined.

When fully executed, the agreement will create five new national parks — including two crown jewels of Tompkins Conservation’s park creation work, Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park, and the 1 million acres and world-class infrastructure they contain — and expand three others.

The signing of this historic pledge reflects a desire to continue and deepen Chile’s tradition of conservation, a sentiment which President Bachelet expressed in her speech today. “Today, alongside Kris, I am honored to see how everything has come together. … We are bequeathing to the country the greatest creation of protected areas in our history.”

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Photo: Government of Chile

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Photo: Linde Waidhofer

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Photo: Government of Chile

This proposal will help create the “Route of Parks,” a 17-park network spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn that Chilean citizens, nature lovers, global adventurers and tourists from around the world can enjoy. The Route will safeguard Patagonia’s wilderness and provide a boon to economic development in the South of Chile, with the potential to generate US$270 million in annual, ecotourism-related revenue and employ up to 43,000 people in the region.

To support the government in this ambitious endeavor, Tompkins Conservation, together with key partners, is committing to creating a Chilean-based Friends of National Parks foundation for ongoing park support.

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

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Photo: Government of Chile

Kristine and Douglas (1943–2015) Tompkins, business leaders from iconic American clothing brands including The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, Inc., changed the course of their lives more than 20 years ago to devote their funds, time, and passion to fight the biggest crisis in the world: biodiversity loss. After careful analysis, Kristine and Douglas concluded that creating large national parks where evolutionary processes could take their course was the most effective way to combat this loss. National parks represent the “gold standard” of biodiversity conservation, offering a unique set of ecological attributes, cultural values, ​​and economic benefits to local communities, while also guaranteeing long-term conservation. Tompkins Conservation is the leader in the Americas in what is known as “rewilding,” restoring natural ecosystems and reintroducing wildlife that has disappeared from a region because of human pressures.

For live updates please visit us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

U.S. Media Contact: Alison Kelman – Office 415.229.9365 // Cell 339.222. 8124 // alison.kelman@tompkinsconservation.org

Chile Media Contact: Carolina Morgado – carolina.morgado@tompkinsconservation.org

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

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The Legacy of Doug Tompkins

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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

1943-2015

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 Tompkinsconservation.org) 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, tbutler@gmavt.net

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37,500-acre El Rincón donated to Expand Perito Moreno National Park

In one of the largest land donations in Argentine history, Doug and Kris Tompkins donated Estancia El Rincón to the national parks system of Argentina today, in a formal reception in Buenos Aires. In the northwest area of the Santa Cruz Province, the 37,500-acre El Rincón will expand Perito Moreno National Park. El Rincon encompasses the Lácteo River Valley, which provides access to the dramatic—and still-unclimbed—south face of San Lorenzo, Patagonia’s second-highest peak. Its granite walls and iconic pyramidal form make it the “Everest” of the region.  Now, climbers and hikers from around the world have the opportunity to explore this valley, and try their luck at this iconic peak, if they dare.

Doug Tompkins first visited El Rincón in 1992 to scout out routes on San Lorenzo’s south face, considered one of the greatest challenges of the Patagonian Andes. He recalls his first encounter with this property: “I first visited Perito Moreno National Park in 1992, to scout the south face of Cerro San Lorenzo. My plan was to return later to make a first attempt at this wall, the largest and possibly most challenging of all in the Patagonian Andes. We entered the park from the south and began making our way north toward the peak, crossing the Lácteo River Valley, which lies outside the park boundaries. To our surprise, we found that the most spectacular area of the zone, for some reason, had been excluded from the National Park. My climbing partners and I had a clear feeling that this property must be purchased and integrated into the National Park. A year and a half later, I had the opportunity to buy Estancia El Rincón, which I did with the express intention of donating it someday into the national parks system.”

As Kris Tompkins said this morning, “This donation has been in the works for some time, largely because it took a long time to hammer out the details of future use and zoning within this new section of the park. We finally feel secure that our vision for this land is permanently designated through the legal donation documents–and off it goes. It’s a great day for us.”

The expansion of Perito Moreno National Park follows in the footsteps of Conservacion Patagonica’s donation of Estancia Monte Leon to Argentine National Parks to establish Monte Leon National Park, as well as the Conservation Land Trust’s contribution of private lands to create Corcovado National Park in Chile. This donation today represents a key milestone in our plan to contribute all our conservation properties into the national parks system of their respective countries.

We are thrilled to share this news and hope that one day you’ll have the opportunity to visit Perito Moreno National Park, surely one of Argentina’s most beautiful national parks.

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