Conserva Puchegüín: Freyja joins forces to protect a key piece in Patagonia’s conservation puzzle - Freyja Foundation

Conserva Puchegüín: Freyja joins forces to protect a key piece in Patagonia’s conservation puzzle

28.04.24 — News, Cochamó Valley
Conserva Puchegüín aims to protect Hacienda Puchegüín, a vast property for sale in Chilean Patagonia.

This week, Freyja Foundation joined forces with local and global partners to launch Conserva Puchegüín – a campaign aiming to acquire and protect Hacienda Puchegüín, a 132,995-hectare private property in Chilean Patagonia’s Cochamó Valley. Building on Freyja’s 2023 land purchase, this campaign deepens our commitment to Cochamó and targets a comprehensive conservation strategy for the region for generations to come. 

Known throughout the world as the “Yosemite of South America,” Cochamó is home to thousand-meter granite walls; glaciers, rivers, and plunging waterfalls; massive groves of alerce trees; and many endangered and endemic species. The region is also home to several small communities whose traditional way of life still thrives.  

Hacienda Puchegüín – the vast property the new campaign aims to protect – caught the attention of local and international conservation organizations when it was listed for sale in 2022. Though surrounded by 1,630,000 hectares of Chilean and Argentine parks, reserves, and nature sanctuaries, the property has lacked the legal and environmental protection necessary to shield it from a wide variety of threats that have endangered the area in the past. Thus, the acquisition of Puchegüín represents not only an opportunity to protect the region’s ecological and cultural heritage, but also to ensure the integrity of one of the most significant biological corridors in Latin America.   

Led by local NGO Puelo Patagonia in collaboration with Freyja, The Nature Conservancy, Patagonia, Inc., and Wyss Foundation, the Conserva Puchegüín campaign seeks to raise 78 million USD, which, along with purchasing the entire property, will facilitate the planning and design of a conservation and management plan for the region, as well as fortify local infrastructure and services. The alliance aims to complete this project in phases over an estimated seven-year period.

Puchegüín: a place of extreme ecological value for Chile and the world 

Puchegüín is the missing piece needed to connect 1.6 million hectares of protected areas across Chile and Argentina into a unified, binational conservation corridor.

The Puchegüín area, known the world over for its natural beauty and geologic grandeur, contains more than 58,000 hectares of primary forest – a resource disappearing at an alarming rate around the world. This figure includes 18,000 hectares of endangered alerce trees – one of the world’s longest living species of trees – accounting for roughly 10% of the alerce habitat in Chile. These temperate forests contribute to the region’s carbon sequestration capacity: Patagonia is the continent’s second-largest carbon sink, with Chilean Patagonia’s extensive forest cover, peatlands, and wetlands storing approximately twice the amount of carbon per hectare as the Amazon.    

In addition, Puchegüín also encompasses an enormous reserve of freshwater and provides critical habitat for other endangered and endemic species such as huemul, Patagonian vizcacha, Darwin’s frog, and monito del monte – one of South America’s only marsupials. 

A locally-led initiative of sustainable cultural conservation and responsible economic development 

Puchegüín is home to a unique mountain community with a deeply rooted Gaucho culture, characterized by horsemanship, agrarianism, and small-scale livestock farming. This initiative seeks to develop a model of sustainable economic growth that will support – not destroy – local traditions, culture, and ways of life. Building off of Puelo Patagonia’s local expertise and experience, Conserva Puchegüín not only centers the needs of the local communities as the foundation for any and all development, but also actively seeks their involvement. Conserva Puchegüín respects these communities’ long and successful tenure as stewards of this land and recognizes their presence as a defense against irresponsible and unsustainable future development.  

Thus, purchasing the Puchegüín property will catalyze a local economy where conservation and ecotourism complement traditional livelihoods – fostering the types of sustainable development linked to any new protected are, reducing poverty, improving wellbeing, and strengthening the community social fabric. 

Conserva Puchegüín: a unique alliance with a modern vision for the future of conservation 

As far back as the early 2010s, NGOs in the Cochamó region have successfully halted a number of high-impact projects slated for this private property. Hacienda Puchegüín’s 2022 sale listing sparked concern amongst local communities and conservation groups who feared that a new owner may lack the requisite knowledge and respect for the territory and its populace. Conserva Puchegüín emerged to combat this possibility. This alliance combines the deep knowledge and local experience of Puelo Patagonia with the global perspective and proven success in large-scale conservation and fundraising projects of The Nature Conservancy, Freyja Foundation, Patagonia, Inc., and Wyss Foundation.   

Conserva Puchegüín now embarks on an extensive international campaign aimed at mobilizing donors interested in supporting the initiative. Alongside national and international outreach, the alliance will continue to center local community members and authorities, encouraging their active participation and engagement in project design and planning.  


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