Patagonia sin Repres


Conservation alone cannot ensure the permanent health of our ecosystems. For long-term impact, activism is also fundamental. This is why we’ve become involved in various environmental campaigns defending the places we work in and love.

Activism can take many forms, from the conservation of threatened landscapes to the education of the next generation of environmentalists. For us, this activism is firmly rooted in the belief that wild places and wild animals have an intrinsic value––and in the belief that our relationship with nature must change.

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul”

Edward Abbey

Patagonia without dams

The fight against a transnational company attempting to build huge hydroelectric dams in the Chilean Patagonia quickly transformed into the largest environmental battle in our country’s history. In 2007, HidroAysén––a joint venture between Endesa-Chile and Colbún––announced its plan to build five large dams along the Baker and Pascua Rivers. They proposed a 1,340-mile transmission line transporting power back to Santiago, a route that crossed eight regions and would fragment habitats and slice through more than a dozen national parks and reserves.

A coalition of more than 80 NGOs teamed up through the Patagonia Defense Counsel to fight the construction of the dams with creative, tenacious efforts that made the unacceptable ecological and social impacts of the project clear. The coalition worked to show that Chile’s energy needs could be met without destroying the country’s most pristine bioregions. And that the project would severely damage Patagonia’s economic potential, undermining efforts to establish conservation-based tourism.

Under the banner of the campaign Patagonia sin represas, or Patagonia without dams, the coalition prepared specific technical comments in response to the environmental impact assessment first presented by HidroAysén. This effort delayed the project, forcing the company and the state to carry out another evaluation. Meanwhile, the coalition also ran a large-scale press campaign, using full-page inserts in local and national newspapers, radio and television advertisements, ongoing online updates, and billboards to raise public awareness and generate support. The website and the launch of a large-format book were also central pieces of this campaign.

In June 2014, after seven years of strong opposition, the government rejected the authorization for HidroAysén to build the dams. This victory showed that a united environmentalist movement can change a region’s destiny.

Campaign against salmon farms

The salmon industry has grown exponentially in Chile, transforming into a lucrative business that generates serious negative environmental effects. From Puerto Montt southward, you can find hundreds of fish farms where tons of non-native Atlantic salmon are raised in floating cages in the sea.

The progressive industrialization of this sector has damaged formerly pristine coastline, yet there’s been little study of the actual environmental impacts.

Hoping to improve the understanding of how this industry is affecting Chile’s natural environments, we helped finance one of the first studies about the local-level impacts of salmon aquaculture in Chile. The results were published in the Journal of Marine Systems in 2006 by independent biologists from Chilean and Irish universities. They described high levels of ecological degradation and contamination in the areas near the salmon production installations in the Pillán Fjord.

In addition to this study, in 2007, we also organized a meeting between Chilean activist leaders and leaders of aquaculture opposition movements from the US, Canada, Argentina, Norway, Scotland, and India. This small summit was held in Pumalín Park, and served to improve the collaboration and coordination between activists’ efforts.

Meanwhile, we also published widely-distributed information about the general health of the Chilean salmon farming industry. You can download the study Salmon Farming in Chile here (in Spanish).

Currently, through our marine program, we seek to conserve the ecosystems within the Route of Parks of Patagonia by creating joint conservation efforts protecting national parks and marine parks.


The Foundation for Deep Ecology, the first of its kind, was created by Douglas Tompkins to carry out his conservation work. As part of these efforts, the foundation began a publishing program to create and distribute work that would inform, educate, and inspire action in defense of nature.

From the launch of the first book in 1993, Clearcut: The Tragedy of Industrial Forestry, the foundation has published more than 25 large-format books, helping to bolster activism and create an intellectual infrastructure for thinking about ecological change. Part of this collection also includes publications about the national parks we’ve helped create, including books about Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Yendegaia National Park.

Today, thanks to a partnership with the National Cultural Heritage Service, we’ve donated more than one thousand copies to Chile’s public library network and made the books available for download through the BP Digital platform.

Connectivity for Palena

In 2007, while the idea for an interior road connecting Palena Province with the rest of the Carretera Austral was being studied, we teamed up with locals living in the construction zone to carry out a campaign in favor of a direct coastal route that would connect local communities and promote tourism. This route was a much shorter alternative, with lower environmental impact and a more positive social impact, in addition to being much safer than the winding road through the high mountains. Finally, it was also clear that building the interior road would be a very long-term project, another reason we proposed a more immediate solution that would provide the connectivity Chaitén’s coastal regions sorely needed.

Currently, there is a bimodal route connecting Chaitén with Puerto Montt via ferry, and progress has been made on the coastal road, connecting the towns of Loyola, Chumeldén, Casa Pesca, and Chana. There is still work to be done on both the coastal and interior roads.