An Uncertain Future
Puerto Montt, Llanquihue Province
People have been coming to Chile to witness its natural beauty for years. Famous for it’s seemingly endless amount of volcanoes and towering granite peaks, Chile draws approximately 2.5 million foreign tourists annually. The Andes Mountain Range is also prized for another reason, it’s plethora of unique minerals. Some of the most diverse minerals deposits in the world can be found here and Chile exports approximately $66.5 billion in natural resources each year.
Chile is the world-leading exporter of copper, potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, gold, silver, rhenium, and selenium and also exports a huge amount of iron ore, timber, fruit, and seafood.
But with progress also comes drawbacks. Mining threatens to permanately disfigure what could be Chile's next great national park. Situated between two emerald green, glacier-fed rivers, is “La Junta” (The Union). Where these waters meet, immense granite cliffs rise overhead and ancient ulma trees and bamboo groves forest the land. The trees are prized for their honey, and the cliffs for their glory—but not just becuase of the minerals found there. Climbers from all over the world are beginning to notice La Junta, and two men want to make sure it stays that way.
Salvador Rosello has had a love for the outdoors his entire life, and grew up climbing mountains in both Chile and Peru with his father. This passion blossomed later in life when Salvador decided to attend Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago, Chile, to pursue a degree in Ingenieria Forestal (Forest Engineering). After moving to a small village named Cochomo, Salvador and a few friends went hiking in a nearby valley. What they discovered there would later become an obsession.
Largely unpopulated, this land is owned primarily by the government of Chile, but a handful of small farming plantations are scattered throughout the valley. Many of these inhabitants are unaware that they can legally claim this land. And if they do know they have these rights, most cannot afford the lengthly legal process involved with officially securing the property.
Salvador and his partner, Alfredo Salas, a lawyer in nearby Puerto Montt, fear that if left unmanaged, this pristine wilderness could fall victim to strip mining and deforestation.
Their plan is to convince these potential land owners to donate half of their newly acquired land to conservation in exchange for the free legal council that will help them stake their claim. They hope that by doing this, they'll be able to piece together enough claims to turn La Junta into a national park.
“I think that this could be the most important National Park in Chile," says Salvador. "It has the potential to be more than Torres del Paine. I think in 10 years you will be hearing about about Cochomo.”
Alfredo has had a lot of experience dealing with these type of land grants and acquisitions, and as a graduating forest engineer, Salvador has the know how to design and manage the park. Together the two have what it takes to get the job done, but will they be able to obtain enough land before the valley is stripped clean? That is a question that can only be answered by time.
All Images ©Adam P. Herrera