Doug Tompkins' incomparable legacy

Doug Tompkins

 An Incomparable Legacy of Conservation

Doug Tompkins, who spearheaded land conservation in Chile and Argentina, died from hypothermia in a kayaking accident on December 8. Rick Ridgeway, a longtime friend and colleague who was on the trip when the accident occurred, tells the story in Outside Magazine.  


Kris and Doug Tompkins

Tompkins was a successful entrepreneur in the clothing industry - notably with The North Face and Esprit. He will be remembered, however, for his substantial contributions to the protection of public land in South America. 

Tompkins's initial connection to the natural world came through adventure sports such climbing, skiing, hiking and kayaking. He was always a strong environmental advocate. But after selling his interest in Esprit in 1990, Doug Tompkins took conservation philanthropy to a level never seen before. 

Through this philanthropy, coupled with extensive outreach and challenging negotiations with initially suspicious governments, Tompkins and his wife Kris have led the efforts to preserve more than 2,000,000 acres of land Chile and Argentina (see map below).

Has anyone ever done more? It would be tricky, and perhaps unproductive, to compare Tompkins to conservation pioneers such as John Muir or President Theodore Roosevelt. James Sano, Vice President of the World Wildlife Fund, said it this way: "I cannot think of another individual in history who has privately financed and engineered the creation of national parks and protected areas on the scale of Yosemite or Yellowstone National Parks."


For more information about these protected lands, see the Tompkins Conservation website.

Tompkins will be best remembered as a philanthropist. But there is no doubt he was always an activist at heart as well. As he told Outside Magazine: "I'm an unabashed, shameless conservationist. I know everyone doesn't have my resources, but I say don't worry, do things to the best of your ability because you'll find it rewarding and helpful and it's paying rent for living on the planet. So just do it. Just do it."

At Restore Hetch Hetchy, the advice "just do it" seems right. We are focused. We understand that a decision to restore Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley and undo the greatest damage that has ever occurred in any of America's national parks will come from one of three places: San Francisco, the U.S. Congress or the courts. 


Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park (1911) - Library of Congress

Presently Restore Hetch Hetchy is fully engaged in our lawsuit. We won the first round and are looking forward to further proceedings in Superior Court in Tuolumne County.

Doug Tompkins' work will carry on in South America. And Restore Hetch Hetchy has a job to finish in Yosemite.