Monte Leon National Park
In 2002, Argentina gained a spectacular new national park: Monte Leon, the nation's second coastal national park, a 165,000-acre protected area in Santa Cruz Province. Conservacion Patagonica was to thank. This beautiful and biologically rich park serves as a testament to the effectiveness of public-private collaboration and the power of private philanthropy to secure lasting conservation results.
Monte Leon National Park, previously an enormous sheep ranch, includes twenty-five miles of ocean frontage on the southern Atlantic coast. It harbours vast colonies of birds—including Magellanic penguins—and marine mammals along the coast. Southern right whales cruise by on their annual migrations. Inland, the landscape is arid grassland typical of the Patagonian steppe. Its characteristic wildlife includes guanaco, puma, rhea, grey fox, and various small mammals and birds. After decades of intensive grazing by domestic livestock, the grasslands are recovering well. As a national park, this spectacular landscape continues to regain wildness; it will forever offer an experience to visitors similar to what Charles Darwin found when he and the crew of the HMS Beagle explored the area in 1834.
The property formerly belonged to the Brauns, one of the most prominent landowning and ranching families in Patagonia history. The Argentine national parks administration had long sought to add this area to the parks system because of its wildlife and scenic values, but had made little progress during years of off-and-on negotiation with the Braun family.
Dr. Francisco Erize, a former director of the Argentine national parks administration, recommended the conservation project to Conservacion Patagonica, which immediately became engaged in the effort. Conservacion Patagonica developed conservation plans and secured the funds for an Argentine NGO, Fundacion Vida Silvestre Argentina, to formally acquire the property in 2000 and transfer title to the national parks administration. To expand the park, Conservacion Patagonica acquired the adjacent ranch Dor-Aike in 2002 and donated 7,400 acres of native grasslands to the park administration.
To establish the national park, the property needed to be formally ceded from provincial to federal jurisdiction, which required unanimous support of the provincial legislature, a difficult feat. However, Conservacion Patagonica and its partners managed to buy the land and convey it to public ownership while government allies succeeded in expediting the transition to federal jurisdiction. In a remarkably short time span, the new park came into being.
Since one branch of the Braun family, Silvia Braun and her husband Juan Kuriger, had their family house and small tourist hosteria at Monte Leon, kept the area around their house out of the donation. Conservacion Patagonica has provided them with a lifetime lease for as long as they wish to operate the hotel. They continue to operate this beautiful and remote hosteria, open to guests year-round. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 54-11-4621-4780 for more information.