In January 2018, Guillermo Pérez (a GAAP co-director) attended the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN) congress, held in Santiago Chile, to learn about the latest policies and financial incentives behind land conservation for Chile and the world. Participation spots at the conference were limited, so we had to send the right person for the job, and Guillermo was our pick. From an early age, Guillermo developed a passion for the environment while exploring the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Chile with his friends and these experiences led him to follow a career into natural resource management and later into sciences.

Here, Guillermo talks about his experience at the conference and what it means for the GAAP:

To my surprise, even though land conservation has been going on for decades around the world, this is only the second time this group has met. The ILCN started only three years ago as a project of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to build capacity for private land conservation through research, training, and exchanges between conservationists worldwide.

The trigger for this group was the realization that act of conserving land and all the associated demands was placed only on government and this was simply not fair. They noted that land conservation is a huge endeavor that does not only involve conserving enough land to maintain functioning ecosystems and all their biodiversity, but it also relates to protection of water and other natural resources. Government simply does not have the resources nor the expertise necessary to do all this to the level needed today.

This second congress was a gathering of 160 people from six continents. This was truly a multidisciplinary conference, showcasing innovative private land conservation policy, financing, management, and governance. Policy is about creating a framework to protect land in perpetuity through money incentives for property owners. In term of financing land conservation, groups around the world are promoting the use of revenue-generating activities (i.e., ecotourism), green bonds (i.e., renewable energy) or environmental impact bonds (practices that mimic nature process when developing land). These approaches come from the realization that being respectful to the environment from the beginning saves money that otherwise would have been spent on fixing things like soil degradation, insect infestations, air pollution, water quality and quantity, among others. It was interesting for me to see how in some parts of the world, the economic surplus being generated from being good environmental stewards is being re-invested into conservation and at the same time saving public money.

Management is looking at mapping priority conservation networks by identifying factors that relate to resilience to climate change or connectivity among species and spaces. Governance is the framework used so the going forward is unified when it comes to conservation standards and practices, and how to deal with legal challenges.

What really surprised to me about this congress was to see how land conservation is becoming a global movement that it is not only unifying people within a country, but around the world. The fact that we all live downstream from somebody else is really a global concept now. The experience in general was inspiring, mainly because I previously thought that conservation involved saving huge tracts of land, but that is not necessarily the case anymore. Nowadays there are also people conserving small tracts of land so every little bit adds to a collective movement.

At the end of it all, I was proud to see that Chile is becoming a global example in land conservation. On one spectrum, we heard about a private citizen that recently signed over the largest private donation ever in history to a government, putting Chile on the “conservation map”; but then on the other spectrum, we learned that there are also normal people legally protecting small one-hectare lots in perpetuity. It is now evident to me that the future of land conservation is in the hands of private citizens as well as government, which allows us all to be in the driver’s seat and share a common goal. In the coming months, the GAAP will be learning more about tax incentives for property owners in Chile, and about the newly formed South American Network of Voluntary Conservation. If you want to learn more about this global movement go to www.landconservationnetwork.org.