First national coastal park created in Argentine PatagoniaBuenos Aires, ARGENTINA - Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA), an affiliate of WWF, the conservation organization, has acquired a 60,000 hectare farm, "Monte Leon", which takes in 30 kilometres of coast in Argentine Patagonia. This acquisition will give the country a new national park - the first marine coastal park in Argentina.
Located 210 kilometres north of the city of Río Gallegos in the province of Santa Cruz, near the tip of South America, just north of Tierra del Fuego, the area is noted for its rich biodiversity.
"Monte León" is representative of the coastal and continental biodiversity of the Argentinean Patagonia: seals, guanacos, pumas, cormorants, penguins, and lesser rheas - the region's largest birds - live there.
The farm has facilities typical of Patagonian farms such as a 2,000 square meter sheepshed that will eventually be converted into an interpretation centre for the Nature of the Argentinean Patagonia.
"The protected areas scheme works best when its users ask for protection and control," stressed Javier Corcuera, FVSA's executive director. "But if these areas are protected just by the authorities responsible for safety, the scheme does not work, neither in Argentina nor elsewhere in the world."
The purchase was made possible by a US$1.7 million donation from the U.S. based non-governmental organization Patagonia Land Trust.
The funds were used to create a trusteeship fund that allowed the acquisition of the farm by FVSA. The trusteeship tool is one of the legal instruments allowed by law that permits the Argentinean National Parks Administration to get further funding beyond the budget the agency receives from the national government.
"This acquisition will help Argentina to develop social partnership initiatives to increase its national parks system," said FVSA's President Dr. Héctor Lorenz. "Our NGO takes responsibility for the fulfilment of the initiative - and of the trusteeship fund as well," Lorenz said.
Argentina has an international commitment to create five protected areas by 2003. "We will encourage the amount of protected areas in counties and provinces," said Marcelo López Alfonsín, director of the Argentinean National Parks Administration. "We have the feeling that environment and sustainability are strategic for the country."
At present, Argentina has 33 protected areas totalling some 3,700,000 hectares which are representative of most of the country's biodiversity. Argentinean National Parks Administration has an annual budget of US$29 million. However, this budget is too small, according to López Alfonsín.
In parallel, the Argentinean National Parks Administration is committed to strengthening the tools for conservation, for the public, sustainable use of national parks, and for the encouragement of environmental education.