Sometimes called "the Argentine Pantanal," Ibera is one of the planet's great freshwater wetlands complexes, covering more than 3.2 million acres of grasslands and marsh in Corrientes Province of northeastern Argentina. The landscape supports fabulous wildlife including more than 360 species of birds. Doug and Kris Tompkins were introduced to the area's beauty, biodiversity, and conservation potential in the late 1990s; since then the Conservation Land Trust–Argentina and the Tompkinses personally have acquired more than 400,000 acres for biodiversity conservation and ecological agriculture purposes in the Ibera watershed.
The primary goal of the Ibera project is to expand and upgrade conservation protections for land within the Ibera Natural Reserve, a protected area designated by the province in 1983. The reserve is comprised of roughly 40 percent public land and 60 percent private property controlled by some 1,800 landowners. Through habitat acquisition, grassland restoration projects, public outreach, and legal activism, the CLT–Argentina team has worked for the last decade to strengthen the public core of the reserve, increase local support for conservation, defend the region against threats to its ecological integrity, and augment and/or restore wildlife populations, especially of endangered or extirpated species including the pampas deer. The first such program launched by CLT biologists has successfully reintroduced giant anteaters, a native species that had been absent from the Ibera area for decades.
One key element of the conservation program is to demonstrate biodiversity-friendly management techniques on agricultural properties within the Ibera watershed. Consistent with a core-buffer-corridor model of landscape conservation, the various ranches owned by CLT in the watershed help buffer the core areas from negative outside influences, while also modeling good stewardship to fellow landowners. The ongoing work to expand wildlands, create broad public support for conservation, and support a vibrant agrarian economy has achieved significant progress on the way toward creating a possible future Ibera National Park that would contain its original species, including thriving populations of large carnivores such as jaguars, maned wolves, and giant otters.
For more information on the Iberá Project, visit www.cltargentina.org