Chile: The US billionaire who creates national parks

Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine
Image caption Billionaire Doug Tompkins: From businessman to green activist

A US billionaire has donated 380 sq km (147 sq miles) of land to help create a new national park in the south of Chile, it's been reported.

Doug Tompkins, who founded the North Face outdoor gear company and now works as an environmental activist, donated the land to go with another 1100 sq km (425 sq miles) provided by the Chilean state to create the Parque Nacional Yendegaia, the English-language Santiago Times reports. Tompkins' Conservation Land Trust bought the territory on Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south of the country in 1998, and the park in the sub-Antarctic region "is a crucial step in preserving the region's unique natural features".

It's not the first time that Tompkins has given land for national parks in South America, and the region's largest individual landowner says that several rare species will now be protected. However, he's seen as a controversial figure in Chile, where it's claimed that he and other landowners wield too much power over native Chileans, Santiago Times says. According to national senator Antonio Horvath, the "Tompkins Factor" holds up economic growth and blocks infrastructure plans that have become an obstacle to regional development. In an interview with an Argentinean newspaper last week, Tompkins defended his strategy, saying that his ideas of a "new economy" should focus on all species, not just humans.

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