Magazine article E Magazine

Esprit De Tompkins

Magazine article E Magazine

Esprit De Tompkins

Article excerpt

Has Douglas Tompkins, founder of Esprit, fallen victim to hubris? The former textile magnate, now a South American environmental crusader, is already owner of the world's largest private nature reserve. He shelled out no less than $55 million in the last decade to build a Yosemite-sized preserve, Parque Pumalin, protecting a swath of 3,000-year-old forests in Chile.

Now, for an encore, the 60-year-old Tompkins is moving east across the Andes, to Argentina, where he's already donated a national park and on the way to creating another. Unlike in Chile, where angry loggers and xenophobic politicians accused Tompkins' radical brand of conservation of being a front for the CIA or Zionist conspirators, bankrupt Argentina seems far more willing to play the part of holy land to one gringo millionaire's eccentric designs.

Through Patagonia Land Trust (PLT), a nonprofit group headed by his wife Kristine McDivitt, former CEO of Patagonia, the couple last November donated a 155,000-acre Patagonian sheep farm to the country's national parks system. When formally inaugurated, Monte Leon will become Argentina's first coastal national park, safeguarding a 25-mile stretch of wild seashore. The park will be home to one of the largest Magellan penguin rookeries in the world, along with sea lions, pumas and some 50 bird species.

Monte Leon is one of four properties in the region (totaling more than 300,000 acres) that PLT plans to bring under protection and return to the public domain. …

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