One Conservationist’s Epic Journey Has Come to an End… But His Legacy Lives On

On December 8, 2015, renowned conservationist, philanthropist, and explorer Douglas Tompkins unexpectedly lost his life after a kayaking accident in Chilean Patagonia. Tompkins was best known as an entrepreneur, and founding member of both The North Face and Espirit — but he left the business world in the 1990s to pursue a more harmonious relationship with planet earth, and donated his fortune toward protecting it.

Tompkins Conservation
Photo Credit: Tompkins Conservation

“Doug Tompkins redefined what was possible in conservation by protecting entire landscapes through private purchases. His recent efforts to make agriculture more wildlife- and human-friendly raised the bar even further, and proved his commitment to a 'Deep Ecology.' Personally, his work for conservation has been an inspiration; I am deeply saddened by his death.”

–Tim Kunin, CEO of GreaterGood

Over the past quarter-century, Doug and his wife Kristine Tompkins have worked to protect about 2.2 million acres of wilderness, primarily through their conservation organizations the Conservation Land Trust and the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Over 700,000 of those acres make up Pumalín Park in Patagonia — their most notable project to date, which in 2005 the Chilean government granted recognition as a national sanctuary.

Photo Credit: Tompkins Conservation via Facebook
Photo Credit: Tompkins Conservation, via Facebook

On his last earthly day, Doug Tompkins and friends were kayaking in one of Patagonia's largest lakes, El Lago General Carrera, when strong waves overpowered their boats and caused them to capsize. Later, while he and some of his crew were being helicoptered to a nearby hospital, Tompkins succumbed to hypothermia. He was seventy-two years old.

Kristine Tompkins, still heartsick from her loss, has pledged to continue (and even accelerate) the unparalleled work she and Doug have been doing for the past two decades. Her enduring spirit assures us that, while Doug may be gone, his impact will no doubt reverberate for generations to come, as the Tompkins name continues to drive positive change for our global ecosystem.

Protect the Planet

Help preserve vital habitat at The Rainforest Site for free!