U.S. Conservationist Donates 714,000 Acres of Chilean Forest

After spending more than $30 million and petitioning the Chilean government for eight years, Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of Esprit clothing, has donated more than 714,000 acres of almost untouched forest to a Chilean foundation that will run South America's biggest nature preserve, Reuters reports.

The is a rugged land of mossy trails, steep mountains, deep fjords, and clear rivers, with camping and cabins for tourists who fly or boat in from the city of Puerto Montt, seventy-five miles away. Tompkins began buying the land fifteen years ago with the fortune he made from selling the clothing business he co-founded. Four years ago, he threatened to abandon the park after lawmakers and business and civic groups objected that his land purchases limited economic development in the remote area and threatened national security.

Tompkins' and his wife Kristine's have purchased more than two million acres in Chile and Argentina. Kristine's foundation has created a national park in Argentina and is working to build a Chilean park on a cattle ranch purchased last year. Tompkins' CLT will continue financing most of the park's $700,000 annual administrative costs. "All of our work is aimed to get private land back into the public domain," Douglas Tompkins said.

"I especially salute your perseverance," said Chilean President Ricardo Lagos. "I never imagined a project to protect our natural resources could have so many obstacles."

Fiona Ortiz. "." Reuters 08/23/2005.