A park thrives when people love and care for it. In building the future Patagonia National Park, Conservacion Patagonica aims to do more than protect land. We see the park playing a key role in the region's economic transition from sheep ranching, a failure economically and ecologically, towards conservation and ecotourism. Meanwhile, through engaging children and other members of the local community, the park will inspire awareness and dedication to conservation.
Since the people living around the future park know the land best and will be its most loyal long-term guardians, we've offered jobs to all former gauchos and developed programs to retrain them as park rangers and conservation workers. We are committed to providing the training and capacity building necessary to allow locals to benefit from jobs within the park. Project biologists work with park rangers to train them in wildlife tracking and animal behavior. English classes for park employees began last season, and were a big hit. Experts from around the world visit the park to oversee biological training programs.
Our school outreach program brings local children into the park to learn about endangered species such as the huemul deer, and the potential community benefits of conservation. Environmental educators with the park project regularly host schoolchildren for nature walks where they learn about native plants and animals, and have the kids assist in hands-on ecological restoration. This type of basic natural history education and active learning is vital to developing broad-based community support for the park effort, as well as inculcating a greater appreciation for Chile's natural heritage.
We host the annual Huemul Festival and hike, in which our neighbors from the town of Cochrane hike through the Tamango Reserve into Valle Chacabuco. At the end of the challenging and inspirational two-day hike, all participants share an enormous asado to celebrate their accomplishment and celebrate as a community.
Scholarships that we sponsor have allowed more than fifty area students to continue their studies. The hope is that these young adults will return to the region with the skills necessary for contributing to conservation or ecotourist work, and become part of a growing class of professionals who can develop the Aysen region in a way that sustains its wildness and ecological integrity.