Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia. Tompkins will talk about her efforts to establish a new national park in Chile. PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHEAST HARBOR LIBRARY

Global conservation leader to speak

MOUNT DESERT — Kristine Tompkins, a global conservation leader and former CEO of the Patagonia clothing company, will give a free public talk outlining her efforts to establish new national parks and help restore missing species in Chile and Argentina when she visits the Northeast Harbor Library on Monday, Aug. 8, at 5:30 p.m.

The founder and president of Conservacion Patagonica, Tompkins has worked tirelessly to help preserve some of the Earth’s most spectacular remaining wild places. After moving to Chile in 1993, she and her husband, the late Douglas Tompkins (founder of The North Face), began acquiring lands for conservation and incrementally donating those privately assembled lands for new parks.

The Tompkinses already have protected millions of acres through their nonprofit organizations, Conservacion Patagonica and the Conservation Land Trust. This work has resulted in five new national parks in Chile and Argentina, two provincial parks and the world’s largely private nature sanctuary, Pumalin Park, in Chilean Patagonia.

In her presentation, Tompkins will give an overview of her current flagship project to create the future Patagonia National Park. The initiative began with the 2004 purchase of the Estancia Chacabuco Valley, a roughly 180,000-acre ranch in Chilean Patagonia along the border with Argentina. The Chacabuco Valley is the core of what will soon become Patagonia National Park, a protected area of nearly 700,000 acres when donated to the public and combined with two existing national reserves.

The park, which will welcome thousands of Chilean and international visitors each year, acts as a natural east-west wildlife corridor, allowing unimpeded movement through various habitats from Patagonian Andean steppe to southern beech forest. With the protection of the land came protection for many of the region’s rare and marginalized species including the puma, huemul deer and Andean condor. Placed along Chile’s picturesque Carretera Austral, the future Patagonia National Park presents a key expansion to Chile’s already spectacular national park system.

When asked why she and Doug worked to create national parks, Tompkins said conservation persists only if communities identify with the land. “People only protect the things they love,” she said, “And you can’t love something unless you inherently identify with it.”

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