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Why Former Patagonia CEO Made The Largest Land Donation In History

Earlier this month Kristene Tompkins, leader of Tompkins Conservation and former CEO of Patagonia, announced she would make a donation of 1 million acres of land to the Chilean government, making it the largest private donation of land to a country ever.

The announcement comes after decades of work and negotiations by Tompkins and her late husband and North Face co-founder, Douglas Tompkins.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet delivered a promise that included merging the gifted land with another 10 million acres of Chilean national lands to create 11 million acres of new public lands. The total area to be protected is three times the size of Yellowstone National Parks and Yosemite combined.

Both Tompkins and Bachelet are on a mission to “rewild” Chile by creating national parks that will combat biodiversity and aid in Chile’s ecotourism.

Tompkin’s move to make the donation was largely inspired by her husband, who passed away in 2015 after a kayaking accident in Chile.

In the early ‘90s the couple received a great deal of criticism when they began purchasing large amounts of land in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, citing it as an effort to help fight the planet’s biodiversity crisis.

The end result will be the creation of five new national parks, including Tompkins Conservation’s flagship 715,000-acre Pumalín Park and its 200,000-acre Patagonia Park. The Corcovado, Isla Magdalena, and Hornopirén national parks will also expand significantly.

In Tompkins' statement she said, “I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realize, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry.”

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