Trailblazing agreements help usher in a new era of land conservation in Chile

A stunning and ecologically important landscape in Coltauco, 120km south-west of Santiago, Chile is now under permanent protection thanks to a new model for private land conservation in Chile. 

The property, which is called Cerro Poqui, has been protected under Chile’s 2016 Derecho Real de Conservación (DRC) legislation, thanks to the work of Fundación Tierra Austral (FTA), enabled by the BHP Foundation.

The DRC is conservation legislation that applies to private land and is grounded in civil law.  It’s the Chilean equivalent of a conservation easement in the US and Canada and the conservation covenant in Australia and is now a part of Chile's Civil Law.

The legislation is significant because it enables private landholders in Chile to enter into a practical, flexible and secure agreement that protects their property for conservation and natural heritage purposes, in perpetuity.  

FTA’s Executive Director, Victoria Alonso says that the DRC protecting Cerro Poqui is a precedent-setting milestone.

‘Cerro Poqui is comprised entirely of Mediterranean habitat, which is the rarest, most threatened and least protected ecosystem in all of Chile. The Chile-Mediterranean habitat is located in Chile’s Central Valley, which is almost entirely privately owned and where 65% of the population of the country’s population lives and works. In order to protect landscapes like the Chile-Mediterranean, we must have a private lands conservation tool like the DRC. So this agreement could have potentially profound implications for land conservation throughout Chile and other similar Civil Law jurisdictions in South America,’ said Victoria.

FTA has now signed three DRC agreements protecting critical habitat:
  • Cerro Poqui - 1,500 hectares (3,718 acres) of unfragmented, ecologically healthy Mediterranean habitat, it is FTA’s highest conservation priority and the owners provide environmental education programs on the property;
  • Lago Chapo - 1,505 hectares (3,718 acres) of pristine forest in northern Patagonia, which is owned by Colbún, one of Chile’s largest utility companies; and
  • Rio Chico - 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in the Futalefeú River Watershed in Patagonia, which is a global destination for white water rafting and kayaking
FTA has also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to sign a DRC that will protect the 30-hectare (74 acre) Casa Ecologica, another Mediterranean habitat landscape.

The agreements are the culmination of years of hard work and planning by FTA, which is piloting DRC projects in the Boldo to Cantillana Mediterranean habitat corridor.

Learn more about the work of Fundación Tierra Austra