Friends of Cochamó is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to protecting and conserving the natural and cultural resources of southern Chile’s Cochamó Valley.
The Cochamó Valley is one of the most spectacular natural areas in the world. Rare and endemic species such as the Darwin Frog live there. Ancient groves of 3000 year old Alerce trees tower above the forest floor. The waters are clean, clear, and potable. Enormous granite monoliths 1000 meters tall provide incredible recreational opportunities, as well as home for the majestic Andean Condor.
And yet, in spite of all this, the land has no official protection. It is neither National Park, nor Wildlife Refuge, nor Unesco World Heritage site. It is a collection of mostly private lands. And while the majority of the landowners in the area work hard to protect and conserve this beautiful valley, there is only so much they can do.
In 2009, the Cochamó river, which flows right through the heart of the Cochamó valley, was in trouble. Thanks to the efforts of local advocates (a few of whom are on our board of directors), the river was protected through presidential decree as a Zona de Interes Turistico. This decree canceled no less than 25 solicitations for nonconsumptive water rights (i.e., dams). Only seven years later, a major hydro project by Mediterráneo S.A. was in the works on the Río Manso, just a few miles south of the Cochamó Valley. It too was blocked when it failed it’s Environmental Impact Study. Meanwhile, Roberto Hagemann (a primary Mediterráneo stakeholder) and his associates are buying up mining rights throughout the entire region. This is the same Hagemann who spent the past decade procuring development rights to a 100,000-hectare parcel of land called Fundo Puchegüin, which stretches all the way from the Reloncaví fjord to the Argentine border, and encompasses the popular climbing and trekking destinations, Trinidad, El Anfiteatro, and El Monstruo valleys.
As if that isn’t enough, there’s also the impact of increased tourism threatening Cochamó. Local land owners have their hands full with litter, human excrement, and collateral duties such as trail work, search and rescue, and even (on rare occasions) law enforcement. Cochamó has all the problems and challenges of a National Park, but very little of the same government-provided infrastructure.
At Friends of Cochamó, our goal is to help local land owners to continue protecting this valley through sustainable tourism. We take a multi-tier approach to protecting the valuable resources of the Cochamó Valley, including fundraising, stewardship projects, and outreach & education.