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Douglas Tomkins Environmental Investor in South America

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Douglas Tomkins Enviromental Investor in South America

The American multi-millionaire who founded the North Face and Esprit clothing lines has said he is trying to save the planet by buying bits of it.

First Douglas Tompkins purchased a huge swath of southern Chile, and now he’s hoping to save the northeast wetlands here in Argentina. He has snapped up more than half a million acres of the Esteros del Ibera, a vast Argentine marshland teeming with wildlife. Tompkins aged 64, is a hero to some for his environmental stewardship but others resent his land purchases as a foreign challenge to their national identity. In an interview with

The Associated Press, Tompkins said industrialized agriculture is chewing up big chunks of Argentina’s fragile marshland and savanna, and that essential topsoil is disappearing as a result. “Everywhere I look here in Argentina I see massive abuse of the soil … just like what happened in the U.S. 20 or 30 years ago,” he said. Tompkins hopes to do in Argentina what he did in Chile – create broad stretches of land protected from agribusiness or industrial development, and one day turn them over to the government as nature reserves. Wealthy foreigners have bought an estimated 4.5 million acres in Argentina and Chile in the past 15 years for private Patagonian playgrounds. Sylvester Stallone, Ted Turner and Italian fashion designer Luciano Benetton all have large holdings set amid pristine mountains and lakes.

It is the same in Uruguay with close to 25% of the total land area sold in the last 12 months ( mostly to foreigners looking at the bargain prices ). In South America Tompkins was among the early ones, buying a 35-mile-wide strip of Chile from a Pacific coastal bay to the country’s Andean mountain border with Argentina. He said his purchases were intended specifically to protect the environment. Argentine officials took notice and eagerly courted Tompkins’ philanthropy, flying him to several areas of ecological significance in the late 1990s – when the government was strapped for cash because of the economic crisis.

“The land conservation budget was burning a hole in our pocket,” Tompkins said. He bought a 120,000-acre ranch in 1998 and has increased his Argentine holdings to nearly 600,000 acres since then. He now owns well over 1 million acres in Chile and Argentina, a combined area about the size of Rhode Island. The financial details of the transactions were not disclosed because they were private deals between Tompkins and landowners.

There was no major opposition to the deals initially because Tompkins bought the land parcels gradually, keeping a low profile.

This comparison was in the La Nacion newspaper a few weeks ago and gives you an idea of the scale of production in Argentina and Uruguay.

Argentina Uruguay
Size 376,000,000 ha 17,500,00 ha
Population 37,000,000 people 3,700,000 people
Breeding Cows 53,000,000 670,000
Consumption of beef 64.3 kgs 52 kgs
Foot and Mouth Disease Free with vaccination Free with vaccination
Price of live steers .70 US/kg 1.15 US/kg
Asdo / Barbeque Meat 3.20 US/kg 2.00 US/kg
Main Foreign Investors European – North American Argentine / Brazilian

Contact the Gateway to South America team to learn about the best investment opportunities in the region. The company is a benchmark for foreign investors wishing to invest in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, providing expert advice on property acquisition and investment tours.

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Post available in: English


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