After He Exchanged One Patagonia for Another, Tragedy Couldn't Keep Him Away

On December 8, 2015, Mr. Tompkins took a kayak trip on Lake General Carrera, which runs through Chile and Argentina, with a group of friends, including Mr. Chouinard. Ms. Tompkins, who was several hours away by car, had secretly given the group members satellite phones, devices which Mr. Tompkins and Mr. Chouinard. After a while, emergency calls started coming in. like Mr. Tompkins capsized in windswept conditions, and he spent about an hour in very cold water before being taken out.

When he found out, he crawled under the small parked plane he often flew to explore the park. “I'm not going out,” said Ms. Tompkins, added, “I wanted no part of it.”

Mr. Tompkins died before he reached the hospital.

“I just crawled in his bed, and I wasn't going to let him go,” she said through tears, adding, “She's lucky to have lived that long considering how she lived her life.”

In her grief, Ms. Tompkins felt lost and unsure how to proceed, but he ultimately decided to redouble his conservation efforts.

“Let's go broke,” he recalls thoughtfully.

Carolina Morgado, executive director of Rewilding Chile, which grew out of Tompkins Conservation, described her at the time as a woman who “turned her grief into power”.

In 2018, Tompkins Conservation finalized a deal with the Chilean government in which the organization donated more than one million hectares of conservation land, with the government adding approximately nine million hectares to create five new national parks and expand three. In total, the organization has created or expanded 15 national parks, protecting more than 14 million hectares in Argentina and Chile — a ongoing initiative. Organization and others branchS it has also undertaken so-called rebuilding efforts, reintroducing jaguars, red-green macaws, giant pangolins, and other species.