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Smart Infrastructure for Patagonia

The world’s need for food, water, energy and minerals is growing. These demands are putting even more pressure on the planet. To meet our future needs, we have to make smarter decisions now about how we protect, manage and develop our lands and waters.

People have already altered nearly half of the lands on Earth, and over the next decade, trillions of dollars will be invested in energy, mining and infrastructure development around the world. Much of this development will take place in undeveloped natural areas – like our mountains, deserts, plains, oceans and rivers.

Patagonia’s Vast Natural Resources

Argentina has the second most important reservoir of non-conventional gas and the fourth most important reservoir of non-conventional oil in the world. Combined with a growing national demand for energy, the extraction of these natural resources threatens the health of Patagonian’s important grasslands, lakes and rivers.

Most traditional ways of offsetting the impacts of development fail to take into consideration broader conservation goals – like taking care of a watershed so people have clean drinking water downstream or connecting critical wildlife habitat areas so that species can migrate between them.

Fortunately, we can avoid making irrevocable impacts on the natural systems we all depend on – and possibly even improve them – while still driving economic growth. Thanks to technology advances in remote sensing, GIS, conservation planning and computer modeling, The Nature Conservancy can assess the cumulative impacts of infrastructure development to determine how wildlife and waters will be affected before a project even begins.

Smart Infrastructure: A New Approach for Argentina

In Argentina, we are working with others to balance economic growth with long-term sustainability of the region’s natural resources using the Conservancy’s Development by Design approach and environmental funds.

Development by Design is a science-based planning method designed to ensure that new infrastructure developments are not only well-placed, but also that their ecological impacts are fully mitigated, in order to achieve a net positive benefit for nature, its flora and fauna. Development by Design offers solutions that effectively balance development with conservation needs through the following means:

• avoiding negative impacts to sensitive natural areas and the wildlife that live there.
• minimizing negative impacts where possible, and
• identifying opportunities to restore and/or compensate for negative impacts.

In addition, we are working with local partners to promote environmental funds. They are innovative financing mechanisms that contribute to creating and strengthening protected areas; supporting conservation activities; and achieving sustainable use of natural resources.

These funds have become effective financing tools for biodiversity conservation in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. We are working with partners such as Fundación Vida Silvestre de Argentina and the Fundación Patagonia Natural, and with support from RedLAC and the National Parks Administration to promote the creation of such mechanisms in Argentina.

These funds can be used to support activities such as:
• creating or strengthening national or provincial protected areas;
• creating incentives for producers to collaborate actively in the conservation of environmental services that are essential for people and wildlife; and
• implementing conservation easements.

To learn more about how you can help us conserve our precious Patagonian lakes and rivers as well as some of the largest intact grasslands in the world, please contact us at


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