Experts Share Ideas for Improving Conservation in Chilean Patagonia


Improving conservation of the vast and varied lands and waters of Chilean Patagonia would yield numerous benefits, both for the natural world and the people who live in and visit it. That was among the lead conclusions of a group of more than 640 scientists, government officials, and residents of the region who participated in an inaugural conference on conservation there, held online on four consecutive Thursdays, Oct. 14-Nov. 4, and organized by the Universidad Austral de Chile with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The event served as a forum for sharing ideas and experiences and focusing on threats to Chilean Patagonia’s land and waters and opportunities for communities to help conserve these natural areas. Organizers hope to host a similar conference in person next year.

Here are some of the perspectives that emerged from this year’s event.

Cesar Guala Catalan

Cesar Guala, director, Austral Patagonia program, Universidad Austral de Chile

“Conservation is by and for the people. We believe that effective planning should forge and strengthen ties with the communities that surround protected areas. Efforts to protect ecosystems must be inclusive, taking into account our country’s various cultures, as well as their customs, worldviews, and traditions.”

Julia Miranda

Julia Miranda

Julia Miranda, former president, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for Conservation of Nature

“It’s important to recognize protected areas’ role in the three great crises that humanity is facing today: the loss of biodiversity, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. These crises’ causes and solutions are intertwined. What happens this year at the Conference of the Parties on biodiversity and climate change, involving countries’ commitment to contribute to conserving 30% of the planet [ocean, land, and freshwater]will be extremely important in tackling these three issues.”

James R Barborak

James Barborak

Jim Barborak, co-director, Center for Protected Area Management, Colorado State University

“Conservation is the responsibility not only of the federal government but also of regional and municipal governments. It’s important for Chile to learn from other Latin American countries’ best practices in addressing the environment and protected areas in their constitutions. Officials have to leverage this opportunity to create a constitution that’s good for Chileans, good for tourism, and good for the environment.”

Andrea Bahamonde Valenzuela

Andrea Bahamonde Valenzuela

Andrea Bahamonde, head of biodiversity conservation, CONAF—Aysén Region

“The region has a major gap that we need to close: the gender gap. We have only one female permanent park ranger on staff in the region. That indicates that investment is lacking, because to hire more female park rangers, we need infrastructure, including restrooms. We have 46 staff park rangers in the region, and there are 5.5 million hectares. That’s one park ranger for every 120,000 hectares. This is a warning sign. We need better, effective management, but it must also be equitable.”

celestino

Celestino Ancamil

Celestino Ancamil, president, Nautical Tourism and Cetacean Conservation Association of Puerto Cisnes

“Our communities—especially coastal communities—know how our marine areas have been changing, and I’ve had the opportunity to witness these changes firsthand. We took the initiative to introduce ecotourism in the region, to use our knowledge and experience to help tourists think a little differently and appreciate their surroundings more. And we were able to apply for funding to help share this knowledge with children, adults, and tourists. We do this work because we love it; we’re passionate about it.”

Pamela Lorena Mayorga Caro

Pamela Mayorga

Pamela Mayorga, ECMPO representative, Desertores Islands and Chaitén coast

“The natural disasters that we’ve had [in Chaitén] have given us a greater appreciation and respect for nature. And they’ve inspired us to organize and understand that nature isn’t to blame; often, it’s people and their policies causing the problems.”

marcelo

Marcelo Santana

Marcelo Santana, mayor, Río Ibanez

“It’s so important for local governments to have a strong connection to protected wild areas. This requires a shift in communities’ role in conservation and caring for the environment. We want to work with communities to develop a new hybrid approach to conservation that enables us to protect the environment without endangering local cultures and traditions.”

Gustavo San Martin

Gustavo San Martín, undersecretary for fisheries

“Chile is establishing a marine network with different categories of protection: management areas entrusted to communities or fishermen, conservation areas such as parks and reserves, multiple-use areas and those that are intended for Indigenous peoples, and, of course, private conservation areas . Ultimately, we have a network, a mosaic with different uses that form a system for conservation, for the management of resources. We must try to integrate these areas.”

David

David Tecklin

David Tecklin, co-director, Austral Patagonia Program, Universidad Austral de Chile

“There are two gaps in marine protected areas: One is the Chiloense ecoregion, less than 1% of which is protected; the other is the lack of adequate planning, personnel, equipped vessels, and monitoring. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in the effective management of the marine portion of the National System of Protected Wild Areas and to coordinate with communities and other public entities in this effort.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Francisco Solís Germani, director, Chilean Patagonia project, The Pew Charitable Trusts

“This first conference on protected areas and gateway communities didn’t just meet its goals; it exceeded our expectations. These meetings highlighted an important part of Chile and its residents. Chilean Patagonia and its marine areas are transformative spaces, capable of changing people’s lives and inspiring a deep love of nature. They’re places of hope, awareness, healing, and sustainable development—and above all, they’re a source of life. But beyond focusing on biodiversity in the region, these meetings also provided a safe space for sharing diverse perspectives—from the realms of science, government, academia, and civil society—as well as ancestral knowledge.”

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