I recently had the incredible opportunity to travel down to Chilean Patagonia to experience the immense efforts that Conservacion Patagonica is undertaking to create the Future Patagonia National Park. Conservacion Patagonica has been around since 2000 and has since protected over 460,000 acres of Patagonian land with the goal of creating a national park in the Aysen Region of Chile. Patagonia National Park will be a refuge for indigenous wildlife as well as an educational canvas for people to come and learn about this unique region of the earth. It will also benefit the local communities and surrounding areas through its ecotourism and responsible travel appeal.
While there, I visited a different area in the park each day, exploring all the different habitats that the park offers. I spent time on local ranches and listened to the stories of people who have lived in this remote, extreme environment their entire lives. The dedication to the wilderness and wildlife among the staff and local communities is tangible. From their puma and huemul deer tracking programs to their grassland restoration projects, Conservacion Patagonica is doing everything that they can to return this once pristine natural habitat to the bountiful and species rich grasslands that existed here pre-ranching.
One of the main issues that the local community and environment is currently facing is the proposed $4 billion hydroelectric project that Endesa (Spanish electricity company) and the national Chilean government have planned for the near future. Imagine a series of damns spread across the river you see in the picture below and you will begin to envision the destruction that this could have on this natural wonder. There is a grassroots campaign throughout Chile that is opposed to the project called Sin Represas. They are trying desperately to end this threat but are finding it hard to garner all the support that they need to stop a large foreign company.
Despite this though, Conservacion Patagonica pushes on with the support of volunteers, staff and locals to continue to protect and rehabilitate this amazing place. If you want to learn more about Conservacion Patagonica, the Sin Represas campaign, or the region in general, I recommend watching the 2010 documentary 180° South or 1967 documentary Mountain of Storms. If you want to make a trip to this amazing region and see a Patagonia that is untouched by the normal tourist, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Awakening the Responsive Traveler Within: What other national parks in places around the globe to you recommend responsive travelers visit? Have you ever been moved to tears by the magnificence of an environment and the people that live there? What else do you think Sin Represas could be doing to promote its cause and protect Patagonia?