Conservation in a Time of Greed


Capabyra with C. Tyrant

Capabyra with Cattle Tyrant on top, Ibera Wetlands

In my book Look Up! Birds and Other National Wonders, I wrote about Doug and Kris Tompkins, a visionary couple who invested their time, expertise and money to create a new national park in Argentina to protect Ibera – the second-largest wetland on earth.This project was only one of many conservation successes the Tompkins and their organization have achieved in South America.

Scarlet-headed B Bird

My essay entitled Ibera: Wet Wonder of the World was inspired by a visit to this incredible place that my wife Lori, daughter Audrey and I made five years ago.  We can attest from our travels to many outstanding natural areas around the world, that Ibera Wetlands has astonishing biological diversity.  For example, traveling one day primarily by foot and by boat we encountered more than 120 species of birds.  In addition to the birds, there were a multitude of other species including, reptiles, fish and plants.

Better still Jabiru

Jabiru on nest, Ibera Wetlands, Argentina

Yesterday I was pleased to see in the New York Times travel section that the Tompkins had also protected a large swath of the “the Route of Parks, Chile – A gloriously scenic network of Patagonian parks.”  Nora Walsh of the NY Times Travel section wrote about the Tompkins and the spectacular places they saved:

“This year, Chile’s Route of Parks will be official thanks to a conservation accord between Tompkins Conservation and the Chilean government, which together donated 11 million acres of Patagonian parkland to be preserved as five new and three extended national parks.  The 1,500 – mile designated adventure trail will connect a network of 17 national parks – from the Lake District to the Beagle Channel, winding through Patagonia’s primordial forests, snow-capped volcanoes and wild coastline.”

Chile Dos 061

This breathtaking example of conservation stands in stark contrast to what is currently happening in our country under the current political regime, which could be characterized by two rock song titles: “Take the Money and Run” and “Get it While You Can.”  The Tompkins, who built two successful companies, understood the value of safeguarding our natural heritage.  Doug Tompkins sadly passed away three years ago in a kayaking accident.  His remarkable story, as well as his wife’s ongoing efforts to continue his and her conservation legacy, are chronicled in the short yet powerful film:  Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy http://www.tompkinsconservation.org/video/index.htm

Kris and Doug Tompkins

Kris and Doug Tompkins

Examples like these should encourage more of us to think about future generations; to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids; to be good stewards instead of greedy, short-term exploiters of the earth.  In the words of one of our best conservationists, a republican president: The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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Daughter Audrey, wife Lori and me –  Torres del Paine National Park, Chile