Cablegate: Ambassador Promotes Environmental Cooperation And


DE RUEHSG #0313/01 0992129
R 082129Z APR 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Promoting U.S.- Chile environmental cooperation was the
primary focus of Ambassador Simons, visit to Chile's 12th
and Southernmost region -- Magallanes -- March 27-31, 2008.
Principal areas of interest were the Yosemite-Torres del
Paine Sister Parks Agreement, the Wildlife Conservation
Society-managed Karukinka Reserve, and promoting the new
Chile-California Partnership. The trip advanced our positive
agenda in a region 3,000 km from Santiago, and helped move
forward two Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA)
biodiversity and conservation projects.

Magallanes and its Close (yet far) Connection to Argentina
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. The Magallanes Region -- proudly referred to by locals as
the "Independent Republic of Magallanes" -- is home to
roughly 150,000 inhabitants. Although residents treasure
their autonomy from "the Center" (Santiago Metro Region),
Magallanes is becoming increasingly more open and
interconnected. The regional economy is principally driven
by cattle and sheep farming, forestry, petroleum, fishing,
and tourism. Punta Arenas (the Capital of the Region with a
population of 120,000) is a free trade zone and the location
for an increasing number of tourism operators with
destinations in Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego. It is
also a commonly-used port for U.S. Antarctic program ships, a
hub for ecological and climate research (among others), and
home to the world's largest methanol plant. The Ambassador
was accompanied throughout his visit by E/POL officer.

3. An interesting and common theme throughout the
Ambassador's meetings in Punta Arenas was the close nexus
between Magallanes and Southern Argentina. Unlike in the
North where the Andes create a formidable barrier between the
two countries, in the South, the geographical proximity and
the flat, open, pampas allow for a more fluid border
crossing. On a daily basis Chileans cross into Argentina
(and vice versa) for work, transportation purposes, and/or
because of cross-border familial ties. However, these close
connections do not always lead to the most complementary of
comparisons. One of the Ambassador's first meetings was
with the Alcalde of Punta Arenas, Juan Morano Cornejo (of the
governing coalition, will seek re-election in 2008). Alcalde
Morano espoused his municipality's efficiency by stating that
while he had 450 employees on his payroll, Rio Gallegos in
Argentina had 9,500, most of whom "sit around all day."
Argentina and its gas supply was an unavoidable topic at
Ambassador's meeting with ENAP at its Cabo Negro facility.
ENAP informed the Ambassador that while Argentina's coastal
pipeline is full, they are currently re-injecting excess gas
rather than selling it to Chile. They have not received gas
from Argentina in nine months.

An "End of the Earth" Perspective on Energy and Environment
--------------------------------------------- --------------

4. While the Magallanes Region is self sufficient in natural
gas, the energy situation in the rest of Chile is
increasingly bleak. Magallanes currently produces five
million m3 of natural gas per day. Three million is sold to
the Canadian methanol plant (Methanex), while the remainder
is used for domestic heating and elecricity generation in
Punta Arenas. ENAP explained that to decrease dependence on
Argentine gas, the Mining Ministry awarded exploration and
production contracts for ten blocks that cover most of Tierra
del Fuego, a decision that could have environmental
consequences. Thus far nine exploration licenses have been
awarded to five companies, including a license for two blocks
to U.S. Apache Corporation. ENAP is pushing for more
exploration in 2008, but when pressed on next steps if
insufficient or little natural gas is found, ENAP officials
simply shook their heads. The principal use for any new gas
would be as a feedstock for the Methanex plant, as there is
no available pipeline infrastructure to move the gas to
Chile's energy poor central region.

5. Despite ENAP's (and Santiago's) preoccupation with the
energy situation, for many Magallanes inhabitants, the energy
debate takes on a much less urgent tone. Instead, many
people the Ambassador met with were eager to discuss
environmental issues such as land conservation and climate
change. This is likely due to the Region's low population
density, vast amounts of open space, unique ecosystems, and
close proximity to Antarctica. Antarctica and glacial

melting are high on peoples, minds; the press asked the
Ambassador about the U.S. position on climate change in every
interview he gave. Regional and local leaders expressed
interest in increased conservation. Both the Regional
Intendente (President's representative) and Mayor of Punta
Arenas were proud to mention the percentage of land already
protected in Magallanes (one said 50%, the other said 60%).
The Intendente is eager to connect tourism -- one of the
Region,s primary economic sectors -- to environmental
protection through developing a regional ecotourism strategy.
She stated that it is "the government's responsibility to
develop in a sustainable manner."

6. During the Ambassador's meetings with the University of
Magallanes (UMAG) and the Foreign Ministry-controlled
Antarctic Research Institute (INACH), both institutions
expressed similar interest in increased cooperation and
collaboration with U.S. counterparts on ecological research.
They discussed the necessity for more English language
instruction as well. UMAG reiterated a desire for U.S.
scientists that come through Punta Arenas to visit the
University. Despite being mere minutes away from each other,
relations between the UMAG and INACH seem tense. Although
their research overlaps to a great degree, the two
institutions have no formal agreement to work together. One
of the UMAG professors indicated that the tension is due to a
personal conflict at the highest level of both entities.

Karukinka Reserve and Torres del Paine

7. One of the principal reasons the Ambassador traveled to
Magallanes was to express the State Department's continuing
support of the Karukinka Reserve project (part of 2007-08 FTA
Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) Work Plan). The
2004 transfer from the Goldman Sachs Charitable Fund of
680,000 acres in Tierra del Fuego to the Wildlife
Conservation Society ("WCS") represents one of the largest
gifts of private land ever. Since 2004, the WCS and Goldman
Sachs have established a formal Alliance to ensure continuity
of the project and an Advisory Council to cooperate and
manage the reserve.

8. National Geographic recently made a documentary ("Eden at
the End of the World") that showcases the important role of
this innovative public-private partnership in establishing
the Reserve. The Ambassador delivered remarks at the Punta
Arenas premiere of the documentary and then traveled to the
Reserve to meet with Advisory Council members and discuss the
management challenges that lie ahead. Among others, the WCS
is developing a public use plan, working to control invasive
species (namely beaver), and designing an environmental
education program. The Ambassador discussed moving forward
with an English language instruction program for Karukinka
rangers as soon as June, 2008. WCS also expressed interest
in exploring some sort of Sister Parks Agreement with a U.S.
park, possibly in the Pacific Northwest.

9. While in the Torres del Paine National Park, the
Ambassador offered similar support to the Patagonia Volunteer
Project ("the Project") and Yosemite-Torres del Paine Sister
Parks Agreement. The Project had just finished restoring a
section of trail in the days before the Ambassador arrived.
This was the fourth iteration of a project funded with
$50,000 in State Department support. The Project is now
self-sustaining and the next group of volunteers will arrive
in October. CONAF (National Forest Corporation) Torres del
Paine Administrator Jose Linnebrink hosted the Ambassador in
the Park. Linnebrink's staff of approximately 50 is not
sufficient to meet the record number of visitors that go to
Torres del Paine each year (last year the Park had 128,402
visitors). Due to CONAF's limited resources, it is clear
that the private concessions within the Park are largely in
control of tourism.

10. While Linnebrink has done an admirable job given the
situation, there are conflicts between private tourism
operators and CONAF over the direction in which the Park is
heading. Increased tourism is welcomed by the private
sector, but Regional CONAF Director Juan Jose Romero has
stated he does not want visitor numbers to increase.
Linnebrink is eager to move ahead on English language
instruction for park rangers (part of Sister Parks
Agreement), and the Embassy is working to find a teacher
(similar to Karukinka) for as soon as June, 2008. This

instruction is more critical than ever as nearly 75% of Park
visitors are foreigners. Additionally, several Yosemite
rangers will visit Torres del Paine in May or June to aide
with the continuing development of an interpretation center.


11. The Magallanes Region will continue to play a key role
in the energy situation and development of protected areas in
Chile. While still rough around the edges, the Region has an
interest in (and some political will to) increase
conservation efforts and develop an ecotourism strategy.
While Karukinka's successful public-private partnership
provides an innovative management model, the struggle between
the public and private sector in Torres del Paine remains of
concern. Through our Environmental Cooperation Agreement
projects, the State Department has the opportunity to play a
key role in ensuring conservation of Magallanes' unique
ecosystems and helping to bridge the public-private gap.


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