Why create a park here?
At the southernmost end of the Americas, Patagonia is one of the most remote and stunning landscapes on earth. The region abounds with natural wonders—glaciers, never-climbed mountains, rich old-growth forests, and grasslands home to innumerable native species of plants and animals. Despite its isolation, Patagonia has been marred by human exploitation, suffering from overgrazing, industrial clearcuts, and mining ventures.
With just 5% of the region under protection (compared to a global average of 14%), Patagonia needs formal conservation. That means plans for sustainable use in some places, and total protection of wilderness in others. In the Patagonia National Park project, we have an enormous opportunity to rehabilitate and conserve a remarkable corner of Patagonia. This area still contains all its original native species; so, with some work to repair the damages of overgrazing, we have the chance to revive a complete ecosystem and recover threatened wildlife. Building a new national park will give adventurers from around the world a chance to appreciate this incredible landscape, and will help to inspire a new generation of conservationists to continue to protect and restore our natural heritage.
Currently, Conservacion Patagonica controls around 200,000 acres of grasslands and forests in the Chacabuco Valley, in the Aysen Region of Chile. This acreage abuts two existing reserve areas, the Jeinimeni and Tamango National Reserves, which cover around 460,000 acres. Our conservation plan calls for joining CP’s land with Tamango and Jeinimeni, creating a park that will total 650,000 acres, or 263,000 hectares. For comparison’s sake, the vast Yosemite National Park in California is just a bit larger in size, coming in at 761,600 acres. The Patagonia National Park project is 1.5x the size of Torres del Paine National Park, the best-known and most visited park in Chilean Patagonia.
Creating a national park means granting the highest level of protection to the land and promoting the enjoyment and conservation of Patagonia for generations to come. The goal is to donate a fully functional new park to the Chilean state with healthy ecosystems, thriving wildlife populations, and outstanding visitor facilities. Reaching this goal requires collaboration with local, regional, and national governmental authorities. Practically speaking, creating the park means buying land, restoring the landscape, recovering threatened species, enabling public access, and working with the Chilean Government to establish national park status, and transfer the administration of the park to CONAF, the Chilean parks service.
National parks offer an unmatched set of ecological attributes, cultural value, and economic benefits to local communities. They are among the oldest and most durable conservation tools, and certainly the best known and loved. Chile and Argentina have two of the world’s strongest national park systems.
Chile designated its first national park in 1926; Argentina, in 1934. These civic institutions have provided enduring value through changing political and economic conditions. Here, we see national parks as the most secure, effective, and responsible way of protecting land.
Creating a park is a complex project, requiring collaboration with local, regional, and national authorities, surrounding communities, partner NGOs, and many supporters. All of our park projects begin with purchasing land that conservation authorities determine to be valuable for biodiversity but that the national park system does not have funds to acquire outright. Ultimately, we intend to donate all of the conservation lands our foundations have acquired to the Chilean or Argentine national park systems—for the benefit of all citizens and all native wildlife species.
Globally, grasslands are a highly underprotected ecosystem type, with only 4% under any protection, and only 1% with strong protections. Healthy grasslands are powerful agents of carbon sequestration, and provide key habitat for large herbivores, top predators, and many other species. Although temperate grasslands have less diversity of wildlife compared to, say, tropical rainforests, they actually have a higher abundance of wildlife. Yet because of their suitability for livestock, most of the grasslands have been converted to ranchland. Rampant overgrazing, as well as conversion to cultivated agriculture, has made grasslands one of the most degraded ecosystem types worldwide.
In Patagonia, overgrazing, and subsequent desertification, of grasslands is the region’s most pressing ecological issue. Once livestock destabilize native vegetation, topsoil begins to erode, especially in the region’s high winds. The heart of the future Patagonia National Park was once a sheep estancia, and suffered from decades of overgrazing, erosion, and the routine killing of native species to accommodate livestock. Healthy Patagonian grasslands sustain a wide variety of plant and animal species. Restoring these ecosystems will provide an opportunity for native species to flourish once again.
The Patagonia National Park project is one of the bigger new protected areas being created so far in the 21st century, and one of the largest grassland restoration initiatives. Through our conservation and restoration efforts at Patagonia National Park, we hope to provide a model for similar large-scale conservation projects around the world.
Chile is an ideal testing ground for such an endeavor, as one of the most stable, prosperous countries in Latin America with abundant natural resources. With the support of the Chilean public and government, we hope to provide a successful example of how large-scale parks projects can not only promote local environmental protection and improvement, but serve as a tool for the education and inspiration of a broader environmental community.
Healthy grasslands sequester much more carbon than damaged grasslands, so grassland restoration has major impacts on climate change mitigation. In Patagonia, degraded grasslands quickly experience desertification, often irreversible. Only through changing land use practices and restoring them can they serve as valuable habitat for the area’s native species. Biodiversity is a crucial element of climate resiliency. Our wildlife recovery programs are important to ensuring the long-term resiliency of the Patagonian landscape in the face of the massive changes that are already threatening the sustainability of our global environment.
The future Patagonia National Park is home to a wide variety of threatened native species, several of which are undergoing intensive recovery efforts, and many others that will directly benefit from the rehabilitation and protection of their dwindling habitats. Key species include the huemul deer, mountain viscacha, ñandu (lesser Rhea) and guanaco. For a more comprehensive list including naturalist entries on some of the region’s essential wildlife, visit our Protecting Patagonia’s Biodiversity page.
A healthy predator population is key to a balanced natural ecosystem. For decades, the pumas at the future Patagonia National Park have preyed on the 25,000-head herd of sheep that had previously grazed the grasslands of the Estancia Valle Chacabuco. Now that these vast sheep herds are gone, it is important for our wildlife team to ensure that these pumas are not instead threatening or eliminating populations of important native species such as the huemul deer. So far, evidence suggests that this is not the case, and that a stable recovery of native predator-prey relationships is on the horizon.
To date, little data has been gathered on puma behavior in the Southern Cone. Our puma study is an important contribution to regional wildlife research, promoting a better overall understanding of the big cat’s role in the health and sustainability of ecosystems throughout Patagonia.
National park tourism is an established and key economic driver in Patagonia, as the region establishes itself as one of the most alluring wilderness destinations in the world. The Aysen region, although wild and beautiful, lacks a central tourist draw like Torres del Paine or Mount Fitzroy. Through building a well-visited park, CP will lead a regional economic diversification away from land-degrading ranching and towards a more stable future that incorporates ecotourism and conservation into the economic base of the region.
The future Patagonia National Park is over 1.5 times the size of the popular Torres del Paine National Park, which draws as many as 100,000 visitors per year. If this is any indicator of the kind of tourism the PNP project could attract, there is a great opportunity for the expansion of regional economic development around tourism. The future Patagonia National Park could attract diverse revenue sources to the region, including increased demand for food, lodging, guided trips, and support for continuing scientific research.
The Patagonia National Park project includes the former Estancia Valle Chacabuco, previously the largest sheep estancia in the region. This property formed a 170,000-acre stretch of grasslands between the Jeinimeni and Tamango National Reserves, making it a prime target for conservation. Before Conservacion Patagonica bought this property in 2004, ranching had already grown unprofitable due to overgrazing on fragile grasslands. The owners, a Belgian family, were eager to sell.
Although on the decline, ranching still remains a key economic driver in the region and a powerful cultural force. We strive to preserve the traditions of this culture in the shift toward conservation: our team works on horseback to build trails and monitor wildlife, we hold community asados often with traditional music and dancing, and we are restoring some of the historic buildings in the park, such as the house of pioneer Lucas Bridges.
CP is working to inform nearby ranchers about the conservation efforts underway in Patagonia National Park, and to demonstrate and promote sustainable ranching practices that work with, not against, the natural landscape. One such program that has been particularly successful has been the use of trained livestock guardian dogs to manage wildlife/livestock conflicts. CP has been raising livestock guardian dogs trained to ward off the pumas and foxes that otherwise might be killed to protect herds. Local ranchers have responded with great excitement about this project, and the program is looking to grow in the coming years.
Conservacion Patagonica’s mission is to create national parks in Patagonia that protect and restore wildlands and biodiversity, inspire care for the natural world, and generate healthy economic options for local communities. The Chilean government has listed the Chacabuco Valley as their top conservation priority for over thirty years. However, they lacked access to the funds needed to acquire it. Conservacion Patagonica, seeing this area as critical to protect and restore, is partnering with the Chilean government to create this park and then donate it to the Chilean government.
Private conservation philanthropy like the work of CP has a long history, and has played a critical role in the creation and expansion of parks around the world. In the U.S, conservation donors played key roles in the formation of Acadia, Grand Teton, Guadalupe Mountains, and Virgin Islands National Parks, among many others. Throughout the world, philanthropy has played an equally key role in creating parks.
Conservacion Patagonica has a track record of success in creating national parks in Patagonia, and years of experience working in the region. CP’s greatest earlier accomplishment was the formation and donation of Monte Leon National Park, a 165,000 acre park on the coast of Argentina. Formally established in 2002, Monte Leon National Park is a fine example of the success of CP’s wildlands philanthropy work in the region.
Our funding comes primarily from the generous philanthropy of private donors. Over 1,200 individual donors have pitched in to help fund land purchases, wildlife restoration, and construction of public access infrastructure.
Contributing to Conservacion Patagonica means becoming one of the creators of an enduring national park that generations to come will enjoy. If you are inspired to join the ranks of our supporters and help us to complete this monumental conservation effort, please donate today!
Conservacion Patagonica is led by Kris Tompkins, who has been dedicating her life and career to conservation in the region for over 20 years. About fifty people work full-time on the creation of Patagonia National Park, with the leadership and guidance of our Board of Directors, and our Scientific Advisory Council. Many thousands more across the globe have joined in this project in one form or another, be it volunteering with ecosystem restoration, donating, spreading the word, serving as supportive neighbors, or lending expertise.
Yes! We are still in the process of completing the infrastructure for the future Patagonia National Park, but in the meantime we invite visitors to come and experience the park-in-progress! We do ask our visitors to be aware that our focus remains the completion of the park, so please be as self-sufficient as possible on your trip.Please view our Visit the Park page for more complete information.
No. Right now the park is free to the public, although we ask that people abide by these rules.
Spring, summer and fall each have their unique charms. Starting in late October, the park is open to the public. Although weather can be cold, the spring landscapes are spectacular. The high season is during the Austral summer, from December to March. Summer highs are in the 70s ºF (21/27 ºC) during the day, dropping to about 50ºF (10ºC) at night. In fall (through mid-April), autumn foliage and crisp nights make for a memorable experience.
From mid-April to mid-October, the park and its facilities are CLOSED. Please save your visit for another time!
Please visit How to Get Tere
Please see here for details on staying at the Lodge at Valle Chacabuco, the intimate eco-lodge at the heart of Patagonia National Park. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about making reservations.
Please visit Activities In and Around the Park
The Patagonia National Park project is graced with a variety of spectacular landscapes and vistas. Whether you come to hike, fish, ride horses, or raft down the beautiful Baker River, you are guaranteed to come across some incredible views. Rich, diverse grasslands host a plethora of wild species, including big herds of guanacos. The lenga forests, featuring stunning red leaves during autumn, shelter hundreds of native plants and animals, such as the endangered humeul deer. Then, of course, there are the towering, snowy peaks of the Andes that can be seen from anywhere in the park. Browse through our photo gallery or our Protecting Biodiversity to get a better idea of the stunning landscapes and unique wildlife you will encounter.
The region surrounding Valle Chacabuco offers a number of different options for travelers looking to extend their experiences outside the park. The drive to and from the park provides ample opportunities for side trips. Other attractions in the region make engaging day or overnight trips. These places include:
Learn more about Activities In and Around the Park
Financial support is crucial: every dollar we raise goes straight to land purchases, landscape restoration, wildlife recovery, and increasing public access to the future park. We also welcome volunteers to join us at the park to aid in ecosystem restoration, increasing public access, or teaching English at the local school. Short- and long-term volunteer opportunities are available. We encourage all of our supporters to spread the word to family and friends, learn about our progress, and promote the importance of the project in any way they can. Please visit our Make a Difference page to learn more about how to donate, or ways to volunteer.