The global effort to conserve pristine wilderness took a major step forward three weeks ago when Tompkins Conservation donated 1 million acres of land in Patagonia to the Chilean government. Alison Kelman, the Communications Director for Tompkins Conservation and alumna of RMS 11, played a central role in this historic moment.
Alison joined Tompkins Conservation in 2014 after volunteering in Parque Patagonia. As the Communications Director, she leads a small team focused on communications and fundraising. While she is mainly based in San Francisco, Alison gets to take the occasional trip to Patagonia, where she puts her wilderness skills to use.
Doug and Kris Tompkins began buying large tracts of land in Chile in the mid-1990s in a bold effort to protect it from more traditional forms of economic development. In the years since, their non-profit foundation Tompkins Conservation has worked closely with the Chilean government to develop these lands into parks that will eventually be operated within the Chilean national park system.
The 1-million-acre donation is part of an initiative by Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet to protect over 10 million acres of land in Patagonia through the expansion of 3 existing parks and the creation of 5 new parks, including Parque Patagonia, where HMI Gap visits. By designating these lands as national parks, they receive the greatest level of protection under the Chilean government.
For Alison, “working on the future Patagonia National Park project has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the Tompkins and the rest of the Tompkins Conservation team, especially at this stage in projects. Kris and Doug’s vision has pushed us all to think bigger, to be ambitious and aggressive when it comes to protecting wild nature. My experience at HMI most certainly influenced my commitment to conservation work, and I am so glad we have been able to collaborate with HMI GAP to get more students to Patagonia Park.”
Check out more by seeing the film, Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy, which Alison helped produce.