Places We Protect

Conservation of critical lands

Healthy forests and grasslands support our economies, provide us with water and pure air.

90 % of the Mediterranean habitat is in private hands. Therefore, the most effective way of protecting and restoring the forests, the flora and the fauna of the Mediterranean habitat is to work with the owners of these private lands and to involve them in the conservation.

Healthy forests and grasslands support our economies, provide us with water and pure air. But as the value of the nature scarcely influences the economic decisions that we take, we keep on sacrificing these natural systems when we keep increasing our food, energy and other resource production. 

Chile is not safe from this dangerous condition. A clear example of the above was the replacement of the native Chaihuín Venecia forests, one of the biggest in the country, that for years suffered from overexploitation, and that eventually led to ardent protests by parts of the scientific community and environmental groups. The result of the debate was the passing of the Native Forests Law which would then give rise to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve in 2005. 

It was thus possible to protect 13 % of the remaining native forest lying in the Coastal Mountain range and this way contributing to the survival of some unique animals (the little bush monkey; the pudu deer; the Magellan woodpecker; the Darwin fox and the "chungungo" among others) and tree species in danger of extinction such as the larch that takes thousands of years to grow and which is the second longest-living species in of the world and the Aextoxicon punctatum known locally as the olivillo. 

The Reserve has become a conservation model of the work The Nature Conservancy carries out in Chile and in the world. In terms of alliances it has permitted us to consolidate a model of public - private work thanks to the donation of 9,500 hectares to the state of Chile in 2012 for the creation of the Alerce National Park (with a surface of 24,764 hectares in total), the first one to be created in the Los Rios Region. This new national park, together with the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, has created a 75,000-hectare conservation area. From the moment of its creation, the Valdivian Coastal Reserve has prioritized maintaining and strengthening its relations with the nearby communities: Cadillal, Hueicolla, Chaihuín, Huape and Huiro. 

From the point of view of the economic development of the sector, TNC has worked vigorously on encouraging the right conditions for the creation of ecotourism activities, in addition to constructing infrastructure aimed for public use, including footpaths, informative signs, picnic area, toilets and parking lots.  

Furthermore, The Nature Conservancy supports a guided visits program, with members of the local community providing interpretation and environmental education services to the visitors during the summer season. Additionally, several community groups that live near the Reserve have begun to benefit from tourism and have established entertainment, gastronomy and hotel business ventures.  

We could adds to this the fact that that The Nature Conservancy, through its Valdivian Coastal Reserve project, is one of the entities that provide advisory services to the Neighboring Communities Fund in Protected Areas, offered by the National Forest Corporation and which supports projects focused on community ecotourism, non-timber forest products, agro-forestry, forest grazing activities, marine products and community forest management.

But today the threats that earlier on put the Reserve nearly in a check-mate situation take place further north, in the Mediterranean areas of Chile. Known around the world for its vegetables, fruits, oils and wines, the Mediterranean habitats are home to thousands of flora and fauna species that are not found in any other place on Earth.

Those are extremely rare habitats which can be found only in five areas on the planet: Australia, California, South Africa, the Mediterranean basin and central Chile.

The Mediterranean habitat in Chile extends over 560 kilometers from the north to the south between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains. Santiago, the capital of Chile, as well as many other urban centers, are located there. And it is thus that the Mediterranean region concentrates to highest population density in Chile (50 % of our inhabitants) and generates 60 % of the our nation´s GDP.

In terms of flora, almost 1,500 plant species grow within the Chilean Mediterranean region and cannot be found anywhere else in the world although other similar plants grow in other Mediterranean habitats.

One of its typical specimens is the Chilean palm (Jubaea chilensis). The only species of its genre, together with the Parajubaea species (from Bolivia) and the extinct Easter Island palm (Paschalococos) they are part of a very ancient palm species. The palm is considered to be vulnerable and is currently on the UICN red list. It is endemic to a small area of the Chilean Mediterranean. The extraction of honey from the palm and the use of small coconuts that the tree bears have reduced its population nearly to the point of extinction.  

At the same time, the fauna that one can find in the Mediterranean habitats is adapted specifically to its unique surroundings. Many of the animals that inhabit the Chilean Mediterranean do not exist in other places on Earth, making them extremely rare and dependent on the Protected Areas to survive.

It is the case of the güiña cat (Oncifelis guigna) which weighs less than a domestic cat. It is the smallest wild cat of the Americas. The güiña cats are extremely rare, solitary, and little known. Due to the expansion of urban development areas and agriculture, its habitat has been quite limited and it is now considered a vulnerable species.

Another example is the yaca (Thylamys elegans), an opossum with a tail longer than its body. It is a carnivore and a marsupial. It is a little-known species due to the limited area of its habitat

Finally, there is also the endemic turca (Pteroptochos megapodius megapodius), a bird approximately 24 centimeters high that can be found exclusively in the Mediterranean forests of Chile. It has a drooping white moustache and its call reminds that of a hooting owl.

Despite its peculiarity on a global scale, the Mediterranean zone is threatened with the battering attacks of modern development. The Mediterranean forests in central Chile are felled to provide arable land for farming and growing high export value products such as wine, olive oil, avocado pears and fruit. At the same time, mining is also present in the area and represents yet another considerable threat.

However, few environmental organizations have considered the conservation of the Mediterranean zone to be a priority. Less than 0.8 % of the Chilean Mediterranean habitat is under an official protection. This unique area with its flora and fauna has been studied little. Till not long ago, the total size of the Mediterranean habitat still intact in central Chile was not really known. A recent ecological evaluation has shown the existence of sufficient Mediterranean habitat to be preserved.

90 % of the Mediterranean habitat is in private hands. Therefore, the most effective way of protecting and restoring the forests, the flora and the fauna of the Mediterranean habitat is to work with the owners of these private lands and to involve them in the conservation.

TNC is supporting the development of tax incentives to motivate the owners to preserve natural areas on their lands. We seek collaboration with the timber, wine and avocado growing industries to find solutions that, ideally, would be both economically viable and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, we are complementing our work with the efforts of the owners through collaboration with Chilean agencies in order to establish new protected public areas that all of us can enjoy.


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