Yendegaia

On December 24, 2013, per Decree No. 118 of the Ministry of National Heritage, Yendegaia National Park was created on a southern portion of Tierra del Fuego, made up by a donation of 94,000 acres from the former Yendegaia Ranch lands belonging to the Yendagaia Foundation, now transferred to the Chilean government, and the subsequent addition of 276,000 acres of adjacent government land, creating a total protected area of 370,000 acres.

This amazing “piece” of wild nature at "the end of the world", which was formerly a cattle ranch, stretches from the Beagle Channel to Darwin's Mountain Chain, at latitude 54˚ south. Beech forests, vast grasslands, jagged coastlines, torrential rivers and sublime mountains make Yendegaia one of the most spectacular places on the island of Tierra del Fuego.

 
 
 

The Conservation Land Trust heard about this property for the first time through Alan Watson Featherstone, a Scottish forest activist and advocate, and Graciela Ramaciotti, an Argentinian conservationist. In 1998, with Doug and Kris Tompkins and other wildlife advocates, they went on a multiple day expedition to explore the area. All were impressed by its extraordinary potential for conservation and later, during that same year, Doug Tompkins pushed to create a nonprofit, and community organization called Amigos de Yendegaia (Friends of Yendegaia), made up entirely of local Magellanic people, in order to buy the property. The financial support to buy the ranch came from the Conservation Land Trust, the Swiss philanthropist, Ernst Beyeler, the Northamerican conservationist, Peter Buckley, and other donors. Following some financial and administrative difficulties, the property was transferred to Fundación Yendegaia, which took charge of the property and supervised its care and restoration.

In 2013, after a couple years of deliberation, Kristine and Douglas Tompkins, in agreement with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, proceeded with completing the project presented by Fundación Yendegaia. This meant prioritizing the creation of Yendegaia National Park, due to its ecological attributes and excellent potential for touristic development, via the donation of the property, a process that was successfully completed in December 2013.

 
 
 

The scenic landscapes in Yendegaia National Park are composed of the most superb features: mountains, forests, wetlands, peat bogs, lakes, rivers and glaciers and snowfields that flow into fiords and channels. It also contains a wide diversity of flora and fauna, many in danger of extinction or facing other conservation challenges, such as the culpeo fox, river otters and the ruddy-headed goose. According to surveys, a total of 128 vascular plant species and 49 land and sea bird species, belonging to 29 families, have been registered, making this land a unique place for bird watching. The most important thing about Yendegaia National Park is that it will be a protected area and wildlife corridor that will extend from the Patagonian steppe of Tierra del Fuego National Park (Argentina) to the frozen tundra and evergreen forests of the A. De Agostini National Park (Chile). It will protect a crucial area of unique sub-antartic forests that have suffered severe degradation from the devastating logging and indiscriminate burning practices carried out to make pasture lands during the early and mid-century. At the same time, it was declared the "’Cabo de Hornos’ Indigenous Development Area", due to the large amount of quality archaeological vestiges from the Yámana society living in Yendegaia Bay, which means deep bay in their native language.

Since Yendegaia National Park shares 32 miles of border with Tierra del Fuego National Park (155,000 acres) in Argentina, we believe this conservation project can eventually become a Trans-Border Park or Peace Park (IUCN model).