American outdoorsman Doug Tompkins died in a kayaking accident on Chile’s General Carrera Lake in December in a tragic reminder that Mother Nature is the great equalizer. He was 72. He is survived by his wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, 66, who was his partner in conservation. Since 1993, Doug and Kristine had invested nearly $300 million to protect land in Chile and Argentina.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Doug was legendary. Travel up and down Chile and everyone seems to either have known him or have a story about him. As a conservationist, Doug spearheaded mind-blowingly big land-restoration projects that ignited praise and critique (the latter from those who rejected the idea of what they considered to be landgrabbing by foreigners and did not want to see conservation in place of productive industry, like ranching, mining, or electricity generation). For example, the Tompkinses’ involvement in the Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams) campaign to stop the building of the multibillion-dollar HidroAysén dams led to red bumper stickers screaming “Patagonia Sin Tompkin$.”
Now Patagonia is faced with just that—although Doug’s legacy lives on through Kristine, who remains determined to finish six national parks that are in the works. “Protecting a place that you love has longevity built into it,” she says. “That’s how I feel about national parks. I love the longevity.” Visit conservacionpatagonica.org for more information.