Photographers Love Blue
Rex Bryngelson, of Patagoniaphoto.com, weighs in on why he chose to partner with Conservacion Patagonica…
In the late 80s, I found my way down to southern Chile to work as a river and fly fishing guide and wound up never leaving! That’s a whole other story, but if you have ever been to this beautiful area then you would surely understand why.
I first visited the Chacabuco Valley (future Patagonia National Park) in 1991 while on a fishing exploratory of the area and it was immediately apparent to me that this valley was something special with its abundance of native birds and wildlife, especially the vast numbers of Guanacos. At that time it was still a working sheep ranch and the signs of overgrazing were evident, but it never occurred to me that this wouldn’t be its future. Sheep ranching is just so much a part of what Patagonia is that it didn’t at all register with me that this valley would one day wind up as the centerpiece of what could become Patagonia’s largest wildlife preserve and national park.
It has truly been something to witness the transformation of this beautiful valley since Conservacion Patagonica took it over. Just how fast the grasslands and habitat have recuperated since the removal of sheep and the dismantling of fences is astonishing. The feeling one now gets when venturing into the valley can only be described as “serenity”. Looking out over the expansive valley with the hundreds of Guanacos peacefully grazing amongst the waves of lush grasses, and not a fence in sight, is reminiscent of places such as Yellowstone or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One can now envision just what Patagonia as a whole must have been like before the Europeans showed up. This is just one example of the incredible work that Doug and Kris Tompkins are realizing throughout Patagonia and beyond. They are true visionaries.
I began my photo tour company just about the same time Conservacion Patagonica began developing the future Patagonia National Park’s administration and visitor’s facilities at the former Estancia Chacabuco’s operations base. That’s another transformation that has been truly amazing to witness! The now finished main lodge, restaurant, visitor’s center (almost finished) and surrounding structures can only be described as “world class” and were tastefully built in the old English style inspired by the historic train depots found in several towns on the Argentine side of Patagonia. All the structures are built in local stone and apparently to withstand World War III and several centuries beyond (literally, I believe). When the opportunity presented itself to incorporate this amazing new destination and facility into my tours, I was right there.
I’ve long felt that the ambitious conservation work Doug Tompkins spearheaded over 20 years ago, with Pumalin Park and several subsequent projects, and all the international attention such an audacious mission was sure to attract, could do nothing but provide a boost to the local tourism industry of the surrounding areas and the region as a whole. That has certainly played true for my small tour company, which I imagine is just among the first wave of small local businesses to directly benefit from existence of this project. There will surely be many more to follow.
Of course, for my business of nature photography, the more pristine wilderness areas there are the better, especially one that’s in my own backyard; so it’s obvious how an alliance with Conservacion Patagonica is of direct benefit to my business. In addition to helping support the efforts of CP, becoming a member of 1% for the Planet is just one way to show our commitment to the environment and to hopefully inspire other small businesses to follow our example. I fully recognize the benefits my business will receive from being associated with 1% FTP and the favorable image it presents to our outdoor and nature loving clientele.
I sincerely hope the donations that my business and my guests of the future Patagonia National Park contribute will help with not just this epic project but also with the realization of other such projects the Tompkins, Conservacion Patagonica, and other associates now have underway throughout the continent. I truly feel privileged to be able to live and experience this interesting phase in Patagonia’s history first-hand. I suspect I’m not the only one who wishes he could still be around to see what all this looks like in 2113!