Coalition Of Local And International Groups Launch Fundraising Campaign To Protect ‘Yosemite Of South America’ Forever

Led by Chilean NGO Puelo Patagonia, the campaign Conserva Puchegüín is working urgently to raise $78 million to purchase and protect 325,000 acres in Chilean Patagonia.  

The campaign has two years to raise the money needed to protect the Cochamó Valley, also known as the “Yosemite of South America” by rock climbers around the globe. The area features thousand-meter granite walls, glacier-crowned peaks, rivers, plunging waterfalls and massive groves of alerce trees, plus endangered and endemic species, and many small communities with traditional ways of life.

Puelo Patagonia and The Nature Conservancy have entered into a purchase option agreement with the current landowner to acquire and protect Hacienda Puchegüín, 325,000 acres of land in Chilean Patagonia that includes the Cochamó Valley. The agreement gives the conservationists two years to raise the money to purchase the land.

Initial donations have been secured by Freyja Foundation and Wyss Foundation, but the campaign still needs to raise approximately $63 million. Outdoor apparel company Patagonia Inc. has been supporting Puelo Patagonia through its 1% for the Planet environmental grants program since 2016, and the company’s nonprofit, the Holdfast Collective, has recently expressed interest in joining the campaign.

Hacienda Puchegüín caught the attention of conservation organizations when it was listed for sale in 2022 through Christie’s auction house in New York. Despite being surrounded by over 4,000,000 acres of Chilean and Argentine parks, reserves and nature sanctuaries, the property is exposed to a variety of threats, such as land fragmentation, that have endangered the area. Thus, the acquisition of Puchegüín represents not only an opportunity to protect the region’s ecological and cultural heritage, but also to ensure the integrity of one of the most important biological corridors in Latin America.  

“We are a group of organizations that share a dream: We want to conserve this critical land for its immense environmental and cultural value,” said Andrés Diez, executive director of Puelo Patagonia. “For years, Puchegüín was threatened by projects with a different vision than the one held by the local community. This campaign is just the beginning of an even bigger project—a unique opportunity for Cochamó, the country and the world.” 

“The Wyss Foundation is proud to pledge the first major gift in support of permanently protecting Hacienda Puchegüín,” said Molly McUsic, president of the Wyss Foundation. “The region signifies not only an immense stretch of land crucial to the environment and biodiversity of the Cochamó region of Chilean Patagonia, but a haven for the local communities who are active stewards of this conservation project. Protecting Hacienda Puchegüín will mean saving endangered species of wildlife and preserving the cultural value of thousands of hectares of land. We are thankful for the partnership of Freyja Foundation, Puelo Patagonia, The Nature Conservancy and Patagonia in this endeavor, and encourage others to join in this effort to ensure Hacienda Puchegüín receives the permanent protection it deserves.” 

“While our 2023 acquisition secured a critical 309-hectare property near Cochamo’s entrance, Freyja’s vision extends far beyond this initial success. Puchegüín represents a much larger, environmentally significant area within the greater Cochamó Valley,” said Anne Deane, president of the Freyja Foundation. “Protecting this area is not just about safeguarding a one-off property; it’s a crucial step towards ensuring the ecological health of Patagonia as a whole. True conservation thrives on a holistic approach, one that considers interconnected ecosystems and the long-term well-being of the entire region. This philosophy guided our strategic land purchase last year, and it continues to fuel our ongoing efforts. We’re actively working to inspire further action and involvement, fostering a collaborative effort to secure Puchegüín’s future for the benefit of Chile and the world.”

“Conserva Puchegüín is an example of radical collaboration for conservation where we seek to protect this area of great natural and cultural value alongside local communities,” said Juan Jose Donoso, executive director of The Nature Conservancy Chile. “As an organization, The Nature Conservancy offers our knowledge and global experience of more than 60 years in developing large conservation projects, and our learnings in Chile from 20 years of managing the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, a protected area that is a model of science-based conservation, in coordination with local communities and developing financial mechanisms that ensure its future protection. As The Nature Conservancy, we hope that Conserva Puchegüín will be a model that can be replicated in Chile and the rest of the world. Puchegüín is located in the heart of Northern Patagonia and, as such, is part of a region that is a priority for TNC to protect. Patagonia is one of the iconic landscapes and one of the most important climate refuges in Latin America.”

“Our five organizations—Puelo Patagonia, The Nature Conservancy, Freyja Foundation, Wyss Foundation and Patagonia, Inc.—are bound by the common goal of protecting Cochamó forever, and we look forward to finding even more like-minded organizations to join us over the coming months and years,” said Alex Perry, general manager of Latin America for Patagonia, Inc. “If we are successful, and I am confident we will be, not only will more than 300,000 acres of threatened land and water be protected, but we will have created an enduring example of how large-scale, community led yet globally collaborative conservation projects can be successful.”

Photo by Catalina Claro.

Miguel Boehm (@negroffwidth) climbing the route “between crystals and condors” on the wall of time, in the amphitheatre.

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