'Dream come true': Two new national parks born in Chilean Patagonia

FILE PHOTO: A view of U.S. millionaire Douglas Tompkin's Pumalin Park, in southern Chile shown in this January 1996 file photo./File Photo

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The foundation created by the late creator of U.S. clothing brands Esprit and The North Face turned over 407,000 hectares (1 million acres) of forest, mountain, lakes and glaciers in Patagonia to the government of Chile on Friday, the Tompkins Conservation Foundation said.

The gift makes final a plan that began with Douglas Tompkins, a U.S. businessman turned conservationist who purchased the land piecemeal from ranchers and others over several years. It was the largest ever private donation of conservation land to the public, the foundation said.

Chilean forest service CONAF will manage the two newly created national parks, known as Pumalin and Patagonia, as well as related tourist infrastructure, including lodges, cabins and campsites, through a concession system.

Both parks are in a remote region of southern Chile known for its grandiose mountain scenery, untracked Andean peaks and rare species of wildlife, including mountain lions and Andean condors.

Chile has committed to investing 350 million pesos ($518,000) to the establishment of staffing and maintenance for the newly public land, including hiring 25 park guards, CONAF said in a statement.

“After years of working together with Doug, our dream that Pumalin and Patagonia Parks become national parks ... has come true,” Kristine Tompkins, president of the foundation and widow of the late Douglas Tompkins, said in a statement.

Douglas Tompkins, who gave up a business career to focus on philanthropy and conservation, died of hypothermia in 2015 after his kayak flipped over in the ice cold waters of the General Carrera lake in southern Chile.

Tompkin’s foundation struck a deal with the Chilean government shortly after his death to turn the lands over to the state.

(Chilean forest service CONAF corrected currency in 5th paragraph to 350 million pesos ($518,000) from $350 million dollars)

Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Sandra Maler