Billionaire couple Doug Tompkins, founder of North Face and Espirit, and his wife Kristine, former CEO of Patagonia are hoping to preserve Chilean grass lands, and help create a 650,000-acre public access park.
The couple purchased Parque Patagonia to create a link between the Chacabuco valley, which they purchased in 2004, and neighboring Jeinimeni and Tamango national reserves.
Their mission is to restore the grasslands to their original state, protect the ecosystem and generate healthy economic activity.
The area is widely farmed and grazed on by livestock. The Tompkins patched the property together by buying from ranchers and farmers. They closed the ranches and farms and moved the cattle out, to give the land the chance to come back.
However, not all the locals are impressed.
A handful of ranchers held out and refused to sell their land. They'll continue to ranch on that land.
Patagonia Hiking guide Jorge Molina said the farmers felt attacked.
“The culture in this region is animals, farmers, ranching. When Doug bought the valley in 2004, people felt attacked. But things are changing, and we need to preserve this land. There were too many animals here for an ecosystem that's so fragile,” he told The Guardian.
The couple hopes the park will gain national park status next year and they plan to install trails, so they'll be accessible to the public.
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