President and co-founder, Tompkins Conservation
“You can have a lot of big ideas and you can have a lot of money, but you need the people to join you. When I die, I know this work is going to keep going — and not because of me, but because of the people doing the work on the ground. I’m so proud of everything we’ve done, but I hope our legacy is creating generations of people who’ll keep it going.”
- Kristine Tompkins
As a child, Kris Tompkins spent significant time on her great grandfather’s ranch in California—early experiences that made her fall in love with the wild. In her teens, she started rock climbing with famed climber Yvon Chouinard, who later founded outdoor apparel company Patagonia. After graduating from the College of Idaho in Caldwell, where she was a competitive skier, Kris returned to California and worked with Yvon and his wife, Malinda, to build Patagonia, Inc. which they approached as the “anti-corporation.” Kris became the company’s CEO and in 1980, Patagonia started giving 10 percent of their profits to environmental organizations. Patagonia, Inc. was also a pioneer in using recycled and low-impact materials in its products and repairing old products as opposed to buying new one, a model since copied by many other companies.
In 1993, Kris left Patagonia, Inc, and married Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and co-founder of Esprit. Together, they decided to leave the corporate world and focus full time on the protection and restoration of the planet, starting in their favorite region: Patagonia, the southern area of South America, crossing from Chile into Argentina–an all-encompassing landscape of glaciers, grasslands, desert, and rainforest.
In January 2018, Tompkins Conservation, the nonprofit Kris and Doug Tompkins founded together, donated 1 million acres they owned in Patagonia to the government of Chile. This newly protected area is the largest gift of land from a private organization to a government. Together with partners, Kris and her husband have worked with the Argentinian and Chilean governments to create 13 parks. In May of 2018, Kris Tompkins was designated a UN Environment Patron of Protected Areas.
Tompkins Conservation, along with Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding Chile share a common legacy that started with the vision of Doug Tompkins and developed through decades of close collaboration. Tompkins Conservation continues to support various projects carried out by Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding Chile financially and in an advisory capacity. The three organizations also collaborate to communicate shared projects and promote rewilding at a global scale.
“When Doug and I began our conservation work in the early 1990s, our goal was that the projects that we started in Argentina and Chile would continue beyond our lifetimes,” Kris said.
In early 2022, Re:wild assumed fiscal sponsorship of both Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding Chile. As the groups’ fiscal sponsor, Re:wild will support these organizations by offering—among other things—financial, legal, and administrative oversight.
“This represents the start of a powerful partnership for the planet,” Kris said. “These organizations continue to carry out the initiatives that we began together and have expanded their objectives with new projects to protect land and sea, rewild extirpated species, and promote local regenerative economies across the Southern Cone. I am beyond proud of how far we’ve come, and excited for what’s to come.”