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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

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Environment

Nov 24, 2018

“Ruta de los Parques” Positions Chile as a Global Leader in Sustainable Tourism

Can tourism be community-inclusive, ecologically-sensitive, and economically advantageous? Chile consolidates 17 National Parks in an unprecedented commitment to conservation.

WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

The ex-Chilean president Michelle Bachelet’s announcement of an unprecedented national conservation accord in March of 2018 marked a departure from several decades of assiduous federal promotion of extractive industry in favor of tourism.

Ruta de los Parques is a conduit to rugged adventure and diverse ecosystems.

Galvanized by the million-acre donation of private Parque Pumalín by American conservationist group the Tompkins Foundation, Bachelet pledged 9 million acres of new national parkland and created the framework for a consolidation of 17 total parks scattered along Chile’s ample latitude. The 1,500-mile link-up, officially established in September, is called La Ruta de los Parques, or Route of the Parks. It repurposes portions of the Carretera Coastal (Southern Highway), originally eked out of the landscape by 10,000 soldiers under the despotic command of dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s.

La Ruta de los Parques. Photo provided by Carolina Morgado

Ruta de los Parques is a conduit to rugged adventure and diverse ecosystems. The well-known Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Parks headline the nascent assemblage, but each park contributes its unique character to the distinctly Chilean experience. Foreign travelers will experience a dizzyingly diverse display of natural sensoria including glaciers, volcanoes, temperate rainforests, and turquoise rivers. Penguins percolate the coastal fjords of Pumalín National Park. The 7,500-foot Corcovado Volcano rakes the atmosphere above its namesake parkland. With pastel panache, flamingos patrol the craters that punctuate the lunar-esque lava fields of Pali Aike.

“This is an invitation to imagine other forms to use our land. To use natural resources in a way that does not destroy them. To have sustainable development – the only profitable economic development in the long term,” Bachelet announced in a speech.

“Local communities are the texture and context for Ruta de los Parques,”

La Ruta de los Parques. Photo provided by Carolina Morgado.

Environmentalists laud her vision of developing Chile through responsible tourism rather than extractive industry. As part of La Ruta’s establishment, the Chilean government will partner with the Tompkins Foundation for 10 years to oversee the project. The Tompkins Foundation is an activist conservancy headed by Kris Tompkins, wife of the late North Face founder Doug Tompkins. They’ve invested millions of dollars to protect and preserve land in Chile and Argentina since the 1990s and will play a salient role in La Ruta’s management.

“Local communities are the texture and context for Ruta de los Parques,” Kris Tompkins stated. Her words indicate that community-informed management and local economic growth are fulcrums of the mission. But not everyone is convinced; last year, local ranchers occupied one of the Tompkins Foundation’s parks to agitate for what they perceived as a barrier to productive land development by foreign conservationists. Moreover, many of the parks currently lack the infrastructure to handle a significant incursion of visitors. According to the official website, the Route of the Parks encompasses more than 2,800 kms, 24 distinct ecosystems, and 60 human communities. Management is a daunting task, given La Ruta’s latitudinal largess and limited budget. How will Chile obviate the problems of over-visitation and environmental degradation that have plagued, for example, popular mountaineering destinations in India, among many others? The striking scenery leaves little room to doubt the allure of La Ruta, but plenty to wonder about tourism’s potential impact on local communities and ecosystems.

Cerro Sombrero Sernatur. Provided by Tompkins Conservation.

“When the park explodes with visitors, we don’t have the time, resources, or money,”

Park ranger Juan Toro Qurilif of Torres del Paine National Park expressed his concerns about over-visitation. “When the park explodes with visitors, we don’t have the time, resources, or money,”. Torres del Paine, which sees 250,000 visitors every year, has a limited annual budget of $2.1 million and only 30 full-time park rangers. He’s not alone in budget concerns; Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) manager Richard Torres Pinilla stressed the necessity of federal, regional, and international funding to provide the infrastructure and labor to manage tourism. Even in the U.S., officials are struggling to keep up with recent surges in visitation. Over-crowding has resulted in littering, traffic congestion, and an $11 billion backlog of upgrades. Granted, Chile’s isolated Parks see just a fraction of the crowds that descend upon Yellowstone or Grand Canyon, but they also lack the paved roads and other infrastructure in place at the U.S. locales.

CONAF and the Tompkins Conservation will meet the challenges head-on. “Nothing will be developed without a long-term vision,” executive director of Tompkins Conservation Chile Carolina Morgado assures. Four years ago, the foundation took to the countryside to survey local attitudes towards a possible link-up route. “We received a very positive response from local communities,” Morgado reported. “People were proud to think of themselves being leaders in protected areas.” The Tompkins Conservation also commissioned a feasibility study which suggested that the expanded park system could generate $270 million annually and employ 43,000 Chileans. In the U.S., conservation interests are often at odds with local development agendas. But according to Morgado, Chileans almost universally embrace their protected lands. “Our National Parks have never been seen as an upset to the economy—rather, they contribute to Chile’s world image as a conservation destination,” she says.

Capillas De Marmol Sernatur. Provided by Tompkins Conservation

“We will learn from Pumalín’s world-class infrastructure as a model for La Ruta’s other parks,”

To prepare the parks for an uptick in traffic, Chile will employ the Project Finance for Permanence (PFP), a long-term funding stratagem that has seen success in Costa Rica, British Colombia’s Great Bear Rainforest, and Brazil’s Amazon. PFP repurposes methods of private sector project financing for use in large-scale conservation projects. For example, the approach mobilizes all stakeholders (funders, NGOs, governments) simultaneously under a protection plan that stresses permanence. Enduring ecosystem health, sufficient long-term funding, proactive governance, and sincere community buy-in are crucial to a permanent conservation plan. Permanent protection of La Ruta’s parklands will necessitate substantial expenses for initial consolidation and ongoing funding for infrastructure projects like visitor centers and campgrounds. Project Finance for Permanence relies on government participants to secure public support, NGOs to tap their funder base, and lead foundations to accrue private philanthropy. The strata of stakeholders coalesce in a single all-or-nothing deal to ensure commitment by all parties to protection in perpetuity.

Ideally, Project Finance for Permanence will nourish the altricial Ruta with the necessary funds for development. Morgado says that the panoply of parks will look to Pumalín National Park as the apotheosis of responsible stewardship and sustainable infrastructure. Doug and Kris Tompkins labored for decades to piece together Pumalín, a million-acre swath of waterfall-laden forest. The Tompkins’ fastidiousness is evident in the hand-crafted park facilities, successful wildlife-rehabilitation programs, and established trail systems. “We will learn from Pumalín’s world-class infrastructure as a model for La Ruta’s other parks,” Morgado says.

La Ruta de los Parques promises a 28-million-acre taste of the tantalizing cultural and biotic endemism of the National Parks that speckle southern Chile. National Parks are participatory and enduring, making them arguably the highest form of ecosystem protection. They are the property of every Chilean; accordingly, conservation must operate under obligation to culture and community. Chile has emerged on the global stage as a preeminent champion of National Parks as a vehicle for tourism and sustainable development. La Ruta is a large-scale experiment in profitable conservation; the stakes are high, and Chile stands to reify its international image of a conservation leader. Should National Park tourism prove both economically advantageous and ecologically sound, Chile’s vision of profitable protection may inspire efforts to create new National Parks in the U.S. and internationally.

Cover photo: Guanaco at Patagonia NP. Provided by Tompkins Conservation.

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News

Dec 28, 2018

The Outdoor Journal’s Biggest Stories of 2018.

From harassment within the climbing industry to deaths and environmental degradation in India. Furthering conversation on deep-rooted problems within the wider outdoor community, to Outdoor Moms, and explaining an unexplained tragedy.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

The Outdoor Journal endeavours to bring you thoughtful journalism from around the world. We always do our best to take a step back, to take a little more time, and present considered content that always acknowledges both sides of a story.

The response to this approach is always strong and is reflected in the stories that we present below, as the most read articles on OutdoorJournal.com in 2018.

THE JOE KINDER STORY

The first big story of 2018 rocked the Outdoor industry and called many things into question. The initial event was well covered across many media outlets, and we were particularly grateful to Courtney Sanders who provided us with a unique perspective and insight from within the professional climbing community.

However as the dust began to settle, The Outdoor Journal encouraged our community to use this story as a catalyst to look inwards, at themselves. As Apoorva Prasad, The Outdoor Journal Editor-in-Chief explained at the time;

“The overall lack of diversity, gender gap, and lack of a level playing field in outdoor activities and sports is symptomatic of a much larger gender gap in the US than in the rest of the developed world. For example, it would simply be unthinkable in Europe for major sporting events to have skimpily-clad women performing on the sidelines for the purpose of “cheering on” the athletes and beer-drinking audiences. But wait, there’s more! Why is every mountaineering or climbing story from America fundamentally about white people going somewhere (most often Asia) to climb mountains? Are we living in the 19th century? As an Indian-origin climber who’s lived and climbed in America and Europe from the early 2000s onwards, I’ve often been the only non-white person in any given crag, mountain or wilderness area. While I personally have not felt discriminated against, there is indeed a gigantic, larger problem, where a lack of overall diversity in outdoor pursuits enables and engenders a certain kind of environment, as a reflection of a bigger societal gap. However, as a society, we’ve finally started a serious conversation on the subject, and we’re beginning to address egregious offenders when and where we see them. This is the only way forward.”

Elsewhere, we also published Chris Kalman’s perspective entitled The Joe Kinder Lynch Mob: Business as Usual. In the article, Chris asked himself how the community can be “so morally righteous”, and “incongruent with our response, or lack thereof, to other issues.”

“We push hard to preserve our right to climb on sacred indigenous sites such as Devil’s Tower, routinely disregarding the innocuous one-month voluntary ban that we squeezed out of local tribes who would have preferred no climbing on the monument at all. We’ve pursued, accepted, and justified the sexual objectification (not to mention marginalization) of women in the sport’s media. We have a long-standing history of working against public land managers rather than with them (and if you saw Valley Uprising, you know we’re damn proud of it, too). We pump industry dollars and massive amounts of attention into climbing and guiding on Everest, even though every year Sherpas either die or risk their lives for minimal pay, while most of the money for those climbs goes not into Sherpa pockets, but into the pockets of the guides, and the owners of those guide companies.”

MASS TREKING IN INDIA – THE ADVENTURE INDUSTRY PUSHES BACK

Statistics say that the outdoors is now nearly 70% of all leisure, vacation based travel, globally. This has massive ramifications in a country like India – where guidelines are available, but actual regulation, monitoring and implementation are abysmal.

During the summer of 2018, Vaibhav Kala reached out to the Outdoor Journal with his concerns. Vaibhav is the committeee chairman of Adventure Tour Operators Association of India and Founder of Aquaterra Adventures, ranked as one of the world’s best adventure travel companies by National Geographic.

Vaibhav’s subsequent article, entitled Mass Trekking in India: A Disease For Which We’ll All Suffer put the India Adventure Tourism Industry in the dock and spoke of everything from unreported deaths, to unsustainable human activity and environmental degradation.

This article was very shortly followed by news of litigation against mass trekking operations. It led to a ban on nearly all mountain tourism in Uttarakhand, leaving 100,000 jobless and industry without a future. However, it didn’t solve the problem or punish those responsible. The Outdoor Journal took the time to look at the numbers and present a considered story in Adventure Tourism in India Leading to Deaths and Massive Environmental Degradation.

New companies pushing mass trekking in India are highly unsustainable and leaving a massive environmental impact.

Of course, the adventure industry reacted, and The Outdoor Journal invited contributions from those who know the mountains and the community better than anybody.  Dr. Sunil Kainthola, Director of the Mountain Shepherds Initiative, said that  “The same online companies as mentioned in [TOJ’s] article are now offering redesigned trek itineraries some of which include an altitude gain of 1000 meters in a single day in a hypoxic mountain environment. So while the spirit of the High Court order will be honored, the lives of trekkers will be definitely at risk.” All of the reactions can be read in Uttarakhand Trekking Ban: The Adventure Tourism Industry Reacts.

NINE CLIMBERS DIE AT GURJA BASE CAMP, BUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

In October, nine climbers died at Gurja Base Camp during a snowstorm. Many media outlets from around the world have offered explanations. But there has been confusion and a serious lack of understanding on what really happened to the nine climbers on Friday morning.

The Dhaulagiri Range, home to Gurja Photo: Miteshstha

At first, The Outdoor Journal didn’t try to theorise about what might have happened, and just reported on the variety of narratives that could be found around the world – The confusion and lack of understanding were evident. The subsequent article was a result of contributions from experts from around the world, as we tried to make sense of the tragedy.

With contributions courtesy of Global Rescue, the first to arrive on the scene, Simon Trautman from the National Avalanche Center, Dr. Karl Birkeland, of the Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, Bruce Raup, a Senior Associate Scientist at the NSIDC and Richard Armstrong, a Senior Research Scientist at the NSIDC a theory began to take shape. A remarkable theory, that told a tragic story and can be read in full in Nine Climbers Die at Gurja Base Camp. What Really Happened? The Experts’ Opinion

OUTDOOR MOMS – EMILY LUSSIN AND HILAREE NELSON

Outdoor sports and adventure have a history of male dominance. It is less common for women to be successful, and even less common for a successful woman to be a mother. As such, The Outdoor Journal were delighted to launch a new series entitled Outdoor Moms.

Family time on Telluride Via Ferrata.

Whitewater kayaking is no exception to expectations. Despite the challenges, Emily Lussin is one such whitewater mom breaking the stereotype, and featured as the first in the series. Our second Outdoor Mom was the 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Hilaree Nelson, Ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir, ski descent of Papsura, first woman to summit two 8,000m peaks in 24 hours… mother of two. Brooke Hess’ interview with Hilaree, that shows a superhuman woman in a whole new light, can be found in Hilaree Nelson – Mother of Two, Mountaineering Hero to All.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

As a final footnote to 2018, we leave you with “Today, I’m Thankful For…” the Privilege to Suffer”. Originally posted on Thanksgiving, but an article that all adventure sports enthusiasts should read.

Next year, we look forward to bringing you more true stories from adventurers and travellers all over the world, with news from unreported regions and stories not told. Adventures, and expeditions to places that still have room for first descents and ascents. We’re delighted to have you with us.

The World is your playground!

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