The widow of American conservationist and North Face co-founder Doug Tompkins cemented her late husband’s a conservationist legacy by donating 1 million acres to Chile for new national parks in the Patagonia region.
It is the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country, the Tompkins Conservation said.
“I wish my husband Doug, whose vision inspired today’s historic pledge, were here on this memorable day,” Kristine McDivitt Tompkins after President Michelle Bachelet signed the historic agreement.
Tompkins died on Dec. 8, 2015 in a kayaking accident.
“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.”
The donated land will form part of a network of 17 national parks covering an area the size of Switzerland. Called the "Route of Parks," the network will span more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn.
In conservation circles, the high-school dropout Tompkins is revered as a kind of environmental messiah.
In the early 1990s he got divorced, abandoned the corporate fast lane and moved to the Chilean wilds. Shortly after, he and McDivitt Tompkins, his second wife, started quietly gobbling up large tracts of land to protect a 3,000-year-old forest in Patagonia.
At first, Tompkins’ purchases stirred suspicion and opposition by local politicians, loggers, power companies and nationalists who stirred rumors that he was trying to steal water resources. But he shrugged off the protests, insisting he would eventually return the land to both governments to be preserved as nature reserves or parks.
True to his adventurer's roots, Tompkins died when he was out on a lake with longtime friends when their kayaks capsized in freezing waters.
The AP contributed to this report.