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Conservancy VIPs head south to the Patagonia grasslands

Argentine Patagonia may well be at the end of the world, but it is a top conservation priority for The Nature Conservancy. Find out what makes Patagonia so important for two of the Conservancy’s leading figures!

The Conservancy’s Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva and Conservancy Global Board member Teresa Beck -- named one of eight Outstanding Directors for 2004 by The Institute of Outstanding Directors-- traveled to Argentine Patagonia to meet with Conservancy staff working to conserve the region’s iconic grasslands – and also meet with scientist Ana Parma in Puerto Madryn, northern Patagonia, where she works at the Patagonian National Center. She is the first Argentine and the newest member of the global Conservancy Board of Directors, a world-class expert in fisheries modeling, assessment and management, and she will bring a wealth of experience in this field.

Here’s what they had to say...


Why Argentina?

Teresa: I’ve been following the progress of the Patagonia program over the last five years and was looking forward to being out in the field again to see first-hand the progress that has been made. I also wanted to spend some time with Ana Parma.

 Peter: Well, I love Patagonia, so I think it’s partly selfish! But we also love the Conservancy’s Patagonia Program. Teresa and I were both around when it first started, and I carefully follow the science of it too. I enjoy learning about what’s new in their science, their projects in sustainable grazing, freshwater mapping for Patagonia and energy development. It’s all cutting edge science in a very neat place. And, yes, for the first time ever we have a world-class scientist from Latin America on our global Conservancy board, so I was looking forward to spending some time with her. We visited with Ana Parma for a couple of days to talk about how to make the biggest impacts and be the most effective Board member she can be. 


What improvements do you see in the Patagonia program since you where here in 2008?

Peter: At the beginning, in 2008, it was just the Conservancy’s Patagonia staff. Nobody in Argentina knew anything about The Nature Conservancy. In fact, as is the case in much of the world, being viewed as a US organization in a different country is not always a positive perception. Today, the Conservancy is clearly more respected and trusted. And in addition to staff from the Conservancy, the program now has a lot of important partners, many of whom are providing help with the key science behind the work. Those strategic relationships didn’t exist when I was here the first time. 

Teresa: True. The Patagonia team has come a long way in developing their land protection and sustainable grazing work. The partnership between the Conservancy, Ovis XXI and Patagonia Inc. is very exciting. The challenges inherent in natural resources development weren't on the radar five years ago.  Now, that there’s a push for oil and natural gas development in Patagonia, our program can bring the Development by Design experience from other Conservancy chapters to help make the best decisions concerning Patagonia’s natural environment.


How do you envision the future of the Patagonian Grasslands Conservation Project? What kind of potential do you see?

Peter: Potential is a combination of opportunity and value – the Patagonia program has both of those. They have this tremendous landscape and environment that is valued both globally and locally. That same landscape faces real threats: shale oil and gas, hydropower, overgrazing… somehow we have to figure out how to meet human economic needs without losing this critical natural resource. But there is a cultural and political openness to it. We also have the right science tools, and it’s the right moment in time because the grasslands are still in fairly good condition. I think we can do it.

Teresa: I was extremely impressed by what a small handful of staff can accomplish in a large country like Argentina. The circumstances require them to partner more because they have limited resources. That seems to give them the ability to accomplish so much with a reasonably small investment.  I applaud their hard work and effort in making the Patagonia Grasslands program a stellar example of what can get done in a short period of time.

Ending the conversation with these world leaders at TNC, we can see two profesionals with a profound passion for Patagonia and an important vision to share.


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