Ecological Restoration in the Chacabuco Valley
In Chile's Patagonia region, grasslands were severely degraded after years of uncontrolled sheep and cattle grazing. In 2004, however, Fundación Patagonica started its important conservation work in the region by purchasing a 69,000-hectare farm known as Estancia Valle Chacabuco, located in Chile's Aysén region. This area is a unique transitional ecosystem between the dry Argentinian grasslands to the east of the Andes and the temperate humid forests to the west. The area under conservation has continued to expand with the subsequent acquisition of adjacent lands. Today, Conservacion Patagonica governs 81,000 hectares, and, together with the neighboring Jainemeni and Tamango National Parks, will form the future Patagonia National Park, an unbroken expanse of 292,000 hectares. Conservation Patagonica is restoring this large swath of land for its famous beauty, the promise of ecotourism and the conservation of its native wildlife.
Restoration in the Chacabuco Valley involves removal of fences and other barriers to the natural functioning of the ecosystem. This simple action has allowed much of the wildlife to move back to once degraded grasslands. At the same time, volunteers and biologists are assisting the restoration process by removing invasive plants and spreading native seeds throughout the valley. Collaboration among Conservacion Patagonica, the Conservation Land Trust, Fundación Pumalin, Fundación Yendegaia and the Foundation for Deep Ecology has promoted the adoption of advanced sustainable agriculture, the development of local communities and a culture of activism that inspires local communities and tourists to respect and defend wildlife.
Grasslands are ecosystems at risk of degradation around the world. They are often transformed into pasturelands where unsustainable grazing practices take place. Even though these ecosystems are less biodiverse than some tropical ecosystems, they are teeming with wildlife. In the future Patagonia National Park, the recovery of grasslands has led to the return of endemic animals like the guanaco, the culpeo fox, the quirquincho, the condor of the Andes and the puma. This important work has helped to put grassland restoration onto the international restoration agenda through its impressive and ambitious commitment to conserving nature.