Q&A with Emily Green from the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

Photographer at Torres del Paine

As part of our continuing commitment to sustainability, we provide support to leading organizations dedicated to the conservation of the ecosystems in which we operate. We’ve recently teamed up with the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund in support of their inspiring and ambitious
Tu Mejor Huella para el Paine campaign.

To kick-off it off, we chatted with Emily Green, Director for the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund to learn more about her organization, sustainability in the park, and the exciting new campaign.
SOUTHERN EXPLORATIONS: We’re excited to be teaming up with The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund for this brand-new campaign, but before we dive into that, tell us a little bit about how the Fund came to be.
Emily Green - Torres del Paine Legacy FundEmily Green: Well, the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund was established in 2014 in response to the tremendous increase in visitation to Torres del Paine National Park and the surrounding area, as well as the lack of mechanisms available at the time to bring in a sense of shared stewardship of the area and address the sustainability challenges they were facing.
We decided jointly, with local and international tourism businesses and the national park authority, to really launch a mechanism that would allow for collaborative conservation in Patagonia.
We focused on the objectives that are important to local stakeholders. We worked on reforestation in fire-affected areas of the park; we worked on community development initiatives so anyone in the region can apply to the fund with the idea towards improving their community or their environment.
It’s really important for us to consider the entire ecosystem that is the park – for instance – we worked on recycling initiatives that we established jointly with the municipality to establish the region’s first permanent recycling facility and system.
The other main project in the park is trail work like trail maintenance, restoration, and construction. We’ve been working on trail work even before this new big project we’re taking on now. We’re using Chilean volunteers jointly with international volunteers. Having that first standing volunteer program for trail work in the park is something that we’ve been doing ever since our founding. We also have a formal agreement with CONAF, which is our national parks service, to continue addressing projects of importance to the national park service there.
SOEX: Why is it important that companies like Southern Explorations help to support your work?
EG: We obviously feel that – beyond simply the corporate social responsibility component - with national parks, that’s what you’re selling; the natural beauty.  So, having a way to re-invest in the park and the communities is also re-enforcing your business model.
We also find that your guests come with a conservation mentality. They’re visiting a national park so they have an appreciation for the inherent value in landscapes and natural areas and because of that they often want to give back.
SOEX: How are companies like Southern Explorations helping to support your important work?
EG: Our local partners and international partners support us in a couple of ways; they either contribute directly to the fund by giving a donation on behalf of every passenger or they’re helping us get the word out so that travellers can choose support if they would like.
Just by spreading the word, sharing on Facebook or Instagram, commenting, giving us their feedback after they visit the park of what they’d like to see, it’s always valuable for us to get feedback from people that come from other areas.
The whole idea is that it’s a multi-stakeholder initiative where we want to continually improve the park for both residents and tourists so that it contributes to the long-term sustainability of the area. What we constantly find is that a lot of people want to give back, they just don’t know we exist.
SOEX: Take us through this new project - Tu Mejor Huella para el Paine ("Your Best Footprint for Paine”) - it seems like a big one.
EG: It is! I mean, it is the most iconic trek in the park and therefore one of the most known in the world. Basically, it’s why we were founded. I’m really excited to see this kind of initiative take off. It’s public, private, civic, all getting together and recognizing the need to address the sustainability of this trail. It’s what people come from all over the world to do. We want to not only maintain it, but also create a system of trails that will endure in the long run and live up to the reason everybody goes there.
The reality is, the trail is incredibly eroded right now, in part because they were never designed for hikers. These trails were originally created by animals and then used more and more by visitors to the park and were never realigned.
Now you have a trail that gets a thousand people a day that goes straight up the mountain, combined with the Patagonian climate with the wind, the rain, etc., so you have a pretty degraded trail experience and one that’s further impacting the surrounding areas, encroaching a lot on surrounding habitat, which is very fragile. We want to limit those incursions while also improving security and visitor experience.
There are a lot of different organizations that are participating. It’s a partnership agreement with the Chilean National Forest Corporation (CONAF) and AMA Torres del Paine and we are hoping individuals will participate as well; everybody putting in their grain of sand and getting it done.
SOEX: What’s the timeline for the project? Is there an end date?
EG: It is an ongoing project. As funds come in we have a committee of experts that will be deciding what’s the most urgent trail sections that we need to work on as funding allows.
SOEX: It’s really an impressive undertaking. Southern Explorations is thrilled to be part of it.
EG: Thank you! We’re thrilled to have your support! You do so much in this area and you’re really a leader, so we’re excited to have Southern Explorations as part of this project. It is a big undertaking and a lot of people in Chile are excited as well. We're excited to be able to expand the trail work we've been doing in other parts of the park.
If you’d like to learn more or help support the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund’s campaign, visit tumejorhuella.com. And be sure to stay tuned to our Southern Explorations newsletter for progress reports and updates from the campaign.