If you say Patagonia to most people and they usually think of some wild, remote, barren land near the bottom of the world. In my case, I think of the clothing line that costs a lot of money.
Patagonia is sparsely populated area which includes the southernmost region of South America (260,000 square miles divided between Chile on the West and Argentina on the East). It is rich and diverse in animal and plant life as well as mineral resources.
Today, Chilean Patagonia (1,000 miles long) is still, basically, unspoiled and undeveloped. As such, it presents a major ecological challenge about the future and who (and what) shall prevail there. Will it be exploitative developers indifferent to the environment or those who, though they recognize a potential for profitable investment, genuinely care about the environment and are socially responsible citizens?
Patagonia Sur has taken up that challenge with a powerful commitment to the region’s ecology, pristine beauty, and green potential, underscored by the just-announced appointment of Henry Tepper, formerly a top executive of the National Audubon Society, to serve as Patagonia Sur’s Chief Conservation Officer.
The company represents an innovative blend of land conservation and private capital whose operations, I believe, would be of interest to anyone concerned about environmental issues.
Patagonia Sur currently owns properties in six different locations in the region with management offices in New York and Santiago. It defines itself as a “for-profit conservation company that is acquiring a large land network in Chilean Patagonia to develop and nurture a portfolio of environmentally sensitive businesses while permanently protecting vast expanses of the region.”
It has already purchased some 60,000 acres—about half the size of New York City—known collectively as “The Patagonia Sur Nature Reserve” and is operating a number of revenue-generating business units. These include eco-tourism and land brokerage with many more in advanced planning stages. All are rooted in a development philosophy that focuses on conserving and protecting endangered landscapes, animal species, ecosystems, and cultures.
Patagonia Sur has now also planted thousands of carbon-ingesting trees on the land it purchased. The trees reduce carbon levels and are generating carbon offsets for the cap-and-trade market targeted at industrial polluters around the world.
In addition to limited land development, the young company is completing plans for new enterprises in water resources, sustainable agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture. Going forward, it plans as many as 10 profitable, environmentally-sustainable businesses that (to quote again from the Fortune article) will prove “land can be developed for profit and remain unharmed—a vastly different theory from previous schools of land management.”
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