Patagonia dreaming: Kris Tompkins works to build the best national park

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BusinessWeek - Kristine McDivitt Tompkins—then McDivitt, always Kris—had not made many big life changes, so maybe it was time. On the Sunday before Christmas 21 years ago, she closed the door and turned the lock on her beach house in Ventura, Calif., a place right on the water where she and her surrogate family of work friends had hung out for 20 years. One gave her a lift to LAX, where she caught a flight to Santiago, Chile. There she boarded a second, smaller jet bound for Puerto Montt. After a 26-hour trip she arrived at the farmhouse of her future husband, Douglas Tompkins. He lived off the grid, without a phone, at the far end of the Reñihue fjord, surrounded by thousands of acres of temperate rain forest. The nearest supermarket was two hours away. Kris had with her two duffel bags, spoke only gringo Español, and had “a one-line résumé,” because, she adds with a quick laugh, “I’d only had one job my whole life.”

Chile court OKs Rio Cuervo dam, environmentalists to appeal

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Reuters - A Chilean appeals court has given the green light to a $733 million hydroelectric dam planned in Patagonia, drawing a vow from environmental campaigners to further appeal against the decision.

Caves found in Patagonia may unlock secrets of how continents formed

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Reuters - Chilean and French scientists have discovered a network of underground caves on a remote island in Patagonia that could provide valuable clues as to how continents were formed.

Regulator halts Yendegaia national park

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Santiago Times - A historic agreement between outdoor gear magnate Doug Tompkins and President Sebastián Piñera to create a new national park in far southern Patagonia has hit a major stumbling block after regulators halted the project they say was done without complying to standards on indigenous consultation, among other administrative errors.

Biodiversity offsets in Chile

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Business Chile - With a geography that runs from Antarctic wasteland to Andean wetlands, Chile offers an almost incomparable range of natural habitats in a single country. But during years of rapid economic expansion, far too little attention has been paid to protecting the country’s precious biodiversity and ecosystems.
Although around 14 million hectares of Chilean territory are protected through state-run national reserves and parks, the amount spent on conservation is minimal. A 2010 study by the United National Development Program (UNDP) showed that Chile spent just over US$0.60 per hectare on its protected areas; in comparison, Argentina spent over US$8 a hectare, including contributions from international organizations.

Indigenous women ride to rescue Patagonia valley

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BBC News - Indigenous women from Chile and Argentina are riding to the rescue of their pristine Patagonia valley, saying plans to build a dam and a river generator there must not be allowed to proceed, it has been reported.

Southern cities ban plastic bags in effort to keep Patagonia pristine

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Santiago Times - Punta Arenas took a significant step last month toward stemming the tide of the some 26 million plastic bags used annually in the popular tourist hub, passing an ordinance to ban commercial use of the polyethylene products that en masse cause both an eyesore and an environmental hazard.

HidroAysen's fate deferred to Chile's president-elect

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Reuters - A special Chilean ministerial committee said on Thursday that more studies of Patagonian energy project HidroAysen were needed, essentially deferring the final decision on whether it should proceed to incoming President Michelle Bachelet.

For already vulnerable penguins, study finds climate change is another danger

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New York Times - Life has never been easy for just-hatched Magellanic penguins, but climate change is making it worse, according to a decades-long study of the largest breeding colony of the birds.
The chicks are already vulnerable to predation and starvation. Now, the study at Punta Tombo, Argentina, found that intense storms and warmer temperatures are increasingly taking a toll.

Bachelet’s new pro-dam energy minister has environmentalists on edge

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Santiago Times - While environmentalists and indigenous groups seemingly warmed to the appointment of incoming Environment Minister Pablo Badenier, President-elect Michelle Bachelet failed to escape criticism with her choice of business magnate and hydroelectric power advocate Máximo Pacheco Matte as energy minister Friday.
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