Chile is the second longest country in the world, stretching over 4,300 km along the southwestern coast of South America. The landscapes comprise of towering peaks, desolate deserts, temperate forests, massive ice fields, glacier lakes, pristine rivers and everything in between. Few places in the world compete with Chile's diversity of land and the untouched landscapes that still remain today.
Unfortunately, a lot of these landscapes are at risk from development and the impacts of corporate interests. Because of the unique landscapes of Chile and its abundance of natural resources, companies are constantly looking to take advantage of them in search for profit. Chile has an abundance of copper, producing roughly 43% of the world's exports, as well as having large reserves of iron, zinc and other precious metals.
One of the main issues for the land is "mega" hydro-electric dams, which not only serve as a destruction for rivers, but the land as well. These dams require voltage corridors that run electricity from the remoteness of Patagonia and the Andes to major cities in the country. These corridors destroy and cut through many vital habits in Chile and the land they call home. This leads a pathway to mining as well, which also can cause erosion, deterioration of land and can contaminate the soil, groundwater and surface water.
Another major issue, particularly in Patagonia, is overgrazing and desertification. Patagonia was known as having one of the biggest sheep industries in the world. Stocking rates were way above what was sustainable and this unfortunately caused extreme desertification to the land, which in some cases is irreversible. Nearly all of Patagonia suffers from some sort of desertification and without proper land and grassland restoration, the landscapes never fully recover.
Luckily, there is hope. Recently, an agreement was made between Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile, and Kristine Tompkins, the owner of Conservacion Patagonica, to expand Chile's National Parklands by 10 million acres. This is the largest private land donation in history and is a major stride in an environmental movement that has been gaining tracking every day. This agreement means creating new National Parks, two of which are Pumalin Park and Patagonia National Park, as well as adding to additional ones. The plan and hope is to link a route of 17 National Parks, called "Ruta de los Parques" , encouraging visitors to come and appreciate the beauty that Chile has to offer.
This is a prime example of the relationship of tourism and conservation and how they can benefit from each other. By conserving land and creating National Parks, besides the obvious benefit of protecting large tracts of land, it also encourages and entices tourists to visit the area - boosting the economy and providing a sustainable alternative to harmful development. Chile is slowly becoming a symbol for environmental protection and the country serves as a perfect example for the rest of the world to follow.
To learn more about land protection in Chile, check out the Tompkins Organization and what they are doing to help protect this land - www.tompkinsorganization.org