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A Brief History of Preservation and Conservation Efforts in Chile

Chile, like most countries today, have developed a greater concern for protecting natural areas to conserve natural wildlife and biodiversity. It is important though, to understand Chilean’s history of protecting wildlife areas to understand how Chile can move forward in protecting biodiversity

The history wildlife modern wildlife preservation began with the establishment of Yellowstone in 1872, the first established national park in the world. Since the inception of the United States National Park Service, Western cultures paid greater attention to the need of preserving wildlife from human disturbance. Currently in this time period, de-forestation and agriculture development was rampant in Chile. Two European naturalists, Claudio Gay and Federico Albert, helped develop the first government natural protection programs in Chile with a focus on preserving forest heritage. Due to commercial interests, it was not until 1907 that the first natural protection area, the Malleco National reserve, was established. Following 1907 to 1925, many new reserves were established. In 1927 the first national park, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, was established. Unfortunately, many of the reserves created served only for conservation efforts rather than ecological ones, and by the 1930s, a large portion of Chilean’s forests were cut down and all fertile land was used for agriculture. Only the southern and high elevation regions of Chile were considered for protection

 

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Chilean government reconsidered the importance of establishing protected areas. Following international trends for the need of ecological preservation, Chile, in 1984, established a law that created the government program national public system of protected areas, or SNAPSE. The goal of the program was to both compile the current scattered areas of protected land into one program, and to increase the amount of protected “wilderness” lands in Chile. Today, SNAPSE continues to be a somewhat effective program, however many preservation efforts in Chile are being led by philanthropic private land owners there. Critics argue that while these private lands are assisting in biodiversity protection, government regulation is needed to ensure that these lands are not converted into agriculture, development, etc.. if the landowners decide to change their objectives. Below is a picture of the Altos de Lecay national preserve located about 40 miles east of Talca.

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If you are interested more information on the history of Chile protection areas can be found with the link below

http://www.ieb-chile.cl/otras_publicaciones/APauchard/Pauchard_Villarroel_2002_Nat_Areas.pdf

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