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25 years ago, when he sold his clothing company, Esprit - he had previously founded and sold The North Face - and went to live in Chilean Patagonia, nobody believed him. Douglas Tompkins spent $ 380 million, much of his fortune, buying huge estates in Chile and Argentina.
Even then he said that he only wanted to protect them and then donate them to the State. They thought of everything; that he wanted to create a Jewish state, keep the water, make mines, put up a nuclear cemetery. No one thought for a moment that he was serious. But 25 years later, his widow, Kris - he died in 2015 in a kayak accident in these lands to which he dedicated his life - excitedly handed over 400,000 hectares to Michelle Bachelet (an area similar to that of the Spanish community of La Rioja , Cape Verde or the state of Rhode Island).
A large part of these lands are within the Pumalín Park, an enclave of great environmental wealth where the Chilean larch trees are - protected trees that are over 3,000 years old - and where pumas and other types of native flora and fauna are found. This territory, added to what has already been donated in recent years and what the Chilean State will contribute in return, will make up a new protected area of 4.5 million hectares; a surface similar to that of the Spanish autonomous community of Aragon or Denmark. It is the largest donation of land by a private person to the State in the history of humanity; and with the only condition that they be national parks. “We had dreamed of it for a long time. 25 years ago Doug had a bold idea and now his dream is coming true. It is a historic event worldwide. It is his legacy, ”his widow, who left a life of luxury in California - she was CEO of Patagonia, another high mountain clothing brand - cried out with emotion and tears, to accompany him on the Patagonian adventure. “It is a great day for Chile. It is in the hands of humanity to stop the destruction of the planet. We will honor the generosity of Tompkins, a visionary who armed himself to face criticism ”, answered Bachelet, who with this decision at the end of his term leaves an eternal legacy: under his Government the protected area will have doubled. The southern country will have 20% of its territory under this regime, a world example. And the president trusts that other countries and other millionaires will follow this example. "Let's hope this is contagious, it is very important, years ago no one believed that this was possible, Chile is now a model for the world in conservation," he explained to EL PAÍS after the delivery ceremony in a unique place of forests and glaciers. The final idea, also dreamed of by the Californian tycoon, is to finish off a tourist route that along 2,500 kilometers runs through 17 national parks of the country, an attraction that may be definitive for a country already famous for its beauty. "The Argentine president has to be very jealous about this, let's see if they follow the path", laughed Yvon Chouinard, adventurer, friend of Tompkins and a millionaire like him thanks to Patagonia, the company he founded, while admiring the landscape of the park Pumalín, the greatest of those created by the philanthropist, the place where his project began. They were both extreme athletes, climbers, who invented clothes and materials for their passion — Tompkins was the first to design the igloo tent — and they became very wealthy. The two were together on another of their adventures, aged 72, when Tompkins' kayak capsized and he was frozen to death in December 2015. "It was a fatal combination of winds," Chouinard recalls. But curiously, his death accelerated his great project: the delivery of their parks to the Chilean and Argentine State, in exchange for them also adding public lands to make other parks and expanding the protection of nature reserves. Once he passed away, politics sped up the times. “His death was the great catalyst. No more doubts, suspicions. 25 years ago, what Doug said about climate change was shocking, now it's accepted. So nobody believed that they bought to donate. And for Chilean entrepreneurs it was also very disruptive. They never did something like that. At first no one liked it, now everyone is applauding ”, says Hernán Mladinic, executive director of Pumalín. In Argentina, the donation of land in the Iberá estuaries is also advanced, another paradise that the Tompkins helped save and in which they are reintroducing the jaguar. In this conservationist wave, Mauricio Macri has just promised that he will double the protected area, less than half that of Chile in proportion. “Doug and I were very pessimistic about the future of the planet, things are very bad, and more so now with Trump in the US, but hey, at least there are these projects in South America. It is important ”, Chouinard concludes. “We are receiving other donations to buy more land in Argentina that will end up as a national park and join the one in Chile to create a binational one. Doug started an unstoppable wheel, this pushes many millionaires to consider what to do with their money ”, Sofía Heinonen, head of the foundation in Argentina, is excited. Ecoportal.net Environmental Newshttp: //noticiasambientales.com.ar/