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Campfire Chat: Kristine McDivitt Tompkins

3 Minute Read

The ATTA Campfire Chat series brings inspiration and vision from dynamic thought leaders whose areas of expertise inform and guide the adventure travel industry. Along with other efforts to regularly engage the global ATTA community in your remote settings, these short virtual interviews hosted by ATTA executives are designed to provide a brief but thoughtful reflection on issues you are facing now that will affect tourism tomorrow.

Adventure Travel Trade Association CEO, Shannon Stowell, hosts Kristine McDivitt Tompkins of Tompkins Conservation for a Campfire Chat about her conservation work, including the extraordinary Ruta de los Parques in Chilean Patagonia.

You will hear her story and the vision behind Tompkins Conservation as they discuss the role tourism plays in conservation. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the critical work that goes into ensuring human and non-human communities can thrive together for years to come and how our adventure travel community can commit to doing more.


Kristine McDivitt Tompkins is the president and co-founder of Tompkins Conservation,  an American conservationist, and former CEO of Patagonia, Inc.  For nearly thirty years, she has committed her career to protecting and restoring Chile and Argentina’s wild beauty and biodiversity by creating national parks, restoring wildlife, inspiring activism, and fostering economic vitality as a result of conservation. Having protected approximately 14.5 million acres of parklands in Chile and Argentina through Tompkins Conservation and its partners, Kristine and Douglas Tompkins, her late husband who died in 2015, are considered some of the most successful national park-oriented philanthropists in history. Her 2020 TED Talk, “Let’s Make the World Wild Again,” has over one million views.

Born in southern California, Kris spent most of her childhood on her great-grandfather’s ranch, which was formative in fostering her connection to the natural world. After graduating from College of Idaho where she ski-raced competitively, she returned to California and worked for her friends from her teenage years, Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, eventually helping to build Patagonia, Inc. Kris became the company’s CEO and collaborated with Yvon and Malinda to build Patagonia, Inc into a renowned “anti-corporation” and a leader in the outdoor apparel industry. 

 In 1993, Kris retired from Patagonia, Inc, married Doug Tompkins (founder of The North Face and co-founder of Esprit), and the two of them changed the course of their lives; they left their careers as business leaders of iconic American brands to devote their funds, time, and passion to biodiversity conservation. Kris and Doug decided to focus their efforts on national parks as they represent the “gold standard” of conservation—offering a unique set of ecological, cultural, and economic benefits, while also guaranteeing long-term conservation. 

After years of collaborating with governments, local organizations, scientists, and communities, in January 2018 Kris, on behalf of Tompkins Conservation, and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed decrees to create five new national parks in Chile and expand three others, adding a total of more than 10 million acres of new national parklands to Chile. For scale, that is more than three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined, or approximately the size of Switzerland. With one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and an additional 9 million acres of federal land from Chile, this has been billed as the largest donation of land from a private entity to a country in history. 

As the president of Tompkins Conservation, Kristine Tompkins currently oversees a multitude of projects in Chile and Argentina working toward creating parklands, marine conservation areas and fighting the extinction crisis via rewilding, the process of reintroducing native species that are endangered or locally extinct.

Kristine Tompkins serves in various positions of global leadership in conservation, including as Chair of National Geographic Society’s Last Wild Places campaign. She has been widely lauded for her conservation philanthropy, and has received many awards alongside her husband Douglas Tompkins. Kristine Tompkins was the first conservationist to be awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. In 2018 she was named the United Nations’ Global Patron for Protected Areas.

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3 Comments to Campfire Chat: Kristine McDivitt Tompkins

  1. I agree with the ¨fee¨…but as it is hard to convince the government to do so and not reliable about the use of that money…what we have done in Lamay is our company (La Base Lamay) charges a fee, which is given to the community that tourists visit (or if they are owners of the lands were we hike through)…and we ask the community to keep the trails mantained and the community clean…so far it is working..!!
    cheers from Peru,
    Franco Negri

  2. Well said Kris! What I find remarkable about what you and Doug have created is the model of what a National park in Chile should look like. Before Parque Pumalin-Doug Tomkins there was really no example of a well run National park in Chile complete with camp sites, trails, maps and guarda parques to staff the park. The idea of putting a park on the map was in place in Chile- but these were parks with little or no access! The sustainability model is to create partnerships with local communities and government to create viable money making ventures where the parks pay for themselves by charging the visitors. The locals will have jobs or income attending the visitors— horse rides, hiking guides, fishing guides, climbing/ alpine guiding and rafting/ kayaking companies to name a few examples…

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