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Preserving Pumalin: Millionaires With a Mission


After successful careers in the sportswear business, Doug and Kristine Tompkins set out with a passion to preserve the some of the world's last remaining wild places. Today they are among the largest landholders in the southern hemisphere. Paul Sisco reports.

One way to help save the environment is to buy it. Doug and Kristine Tompkins have bought and created Pumalin Park, an over 300,000 hectare wilderness park in Chile.

The park sits on the northern edge of Patagonia in Southern Chile. Fifteen years ago, with millions of dollars made running sportswear companies North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia, they began buying patches of wilderness for preservation purposes.

Today, through their non-profit foundations, the couple owns and controls over 800,000 hectares of park land in the southern hemisphere.

"It's peanuts if you weigh it against what's being saved on an annual basis versus what is being destroyed,” says Kristine Tompkins. “We're on the losing team."

Pumalin Park is home to pristine waters from the Andes mountains, untouched 3,000-year-old forest, and protected wildlife. The Tompkins vow to keep it that way.

But some Chilean officials want to see a national highway right though Pumalin.

"We're going to see about that," says Doug.

The preserve cuts Chile in two. To reach its' center visitors must take a ferry or drive through neighboring Argentina. The Tompkins want a less invasive coastal connection.

Most visitors to the park like it just the way it is. Doug and Kristine Tompkins have already given parks to Chile and Argentina, and plan to donate Pumalin Park to the people of Chile when they are convinced it will remain as it is.

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