Global Collaboration: Field Notes from Chile

Jesse Patterson | League to Save Lake Tahoe
April 4, 2023
With support from a U.S. Embassy grant, the League’s Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Patterson recently traveled to Chile to meet, learn from and share Tahoe’s lessons with members of Chile’s burgeoning environmental movement. This trip is the latest chapter in a relationship that stretches back to 2018.
Jesse reflected on his visit in a recent blog post. Check it out:



Tahoe Blue-Gooders,

Over decades of working to Keep Tahoe Blue, the League has learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – in environmental conservation.

When we’re lucky, we get to share those lessons with others, like our partners at Chile Lagos Limpios, a nonprofit dedicated to the lakes of Northern Patagonia. Click here for a Google Earth map of the region. And sometimes, when the stars are aligned just right, we get to see the natural jewels they’re dedicated to protecting. In March of this year, I got to do just that.

To be exact – Chile Lagos Limpios has 23 jewels (lakes) that they’re working to conserve, guide toward sustainable development, and make resilient in the face of climate change.

Map of Chile’s Northern Patagonian Lake District.

The view over Lake Llanquihue to the Osorno volcano. Photo: Carlos Martinez, Flickr CC

Excited to see Chile’s new and growing environmental movement, I landed in the capitol, Santiago, ready to hit the ground running. The Executive Director of Chile Lagos Limpios, Fernando “Nano” Coz, guided me through the cities of Valdivia, Puerto Octay, Puerto Montt, and Puerto Varas – Chile’s gateway to Patagonia.

At each stop, I witnessed local government, citizens, grassroots organizations, and corporate partners taking big, collaborative steps toward conservation. 

We met folks who held high public office, like the governor of Osorno Province, who supported the grassroots environmentalists’ goal of sustainable development. 

We met huge companies committed to the cause, like Aquachile, the world’s second-largest salmon farming operation. The company became the first of its kind to move its fish-raising operation out of the lakes and into tanks, in order to avoid environmental degradation. They also donate equipment that’s crucial to Chile Lagos Limpios’ water quality monitoring. 

We met small entrepreneurs too, like the team trying to expand a solar-powered water taxi to provide sustainable transportation options in Valdivia.

Perhaps the most eventful stop was at Puerto Varas, Chile. There I gave a presentation at the U.S. Embassy-hosted seminar titled “The Road to Sustainable Development of Lakes: A Commitment for Communities and Businesses.”

Yours truly presenting to a packed house of Chilean conservationists, businesses, government officials and engaged community members.

A video feed shows salmon swimming in one of Aquachile’s aquaculture tanks.

After speaking and listening to other presenters, I was inspired by the momentum and “cultural transformation” – the buy-in from the public, private and non-profit sectors – taking place.

For example, Aquachile wasn’t the only company keeping the health of Northern Patagonia’s lakes front and center. Businesses like Innovex donated scientific instruments that are helping Chile Lagos Limpios (in partnership with UC Davis – Chile) build a model of hydrology and nutrient inputs for Lake Llanquihue. I got the chance to tour those lake monitoring buoys with Innovex’s team and folks from the U.S. Embassy.

Also, local eyewear maker Karun donated the meeting space for the seminar. The company’s products are made from plastic trash that’s been removed from lakes and beaches and upcycled to give it a new life.

Collaboration like this is driving Chile’s environmental advocacy in a way that took Tahoe decades to reach. 

Chile is like California was in the late 1960s. How people think about their relationship to the natural environment is shifting – shifting toward appreciation, responsibility and stewardship. In the US, people led the way and the corporations came later. In Chile, the people and corporations are moving together. 

How spectacular is that? When you have the community, businesses and government working together, no goal is too ambitious, and the desired environmental outcomes are often the same. 

It was an honor to learn from and lend the League’s lessons to Chile Lagos Limpios and their country’s vibrant, growing conservation community.

To my Chilean friends: I look forward to welcoming you to Tahoe soon. Feel free to bring some of your amazing, sustainably farmed salmon with you.

Lake Llanquihue and Osorno Volcano. Photo: Alexander-Shchukin, Flickr CC

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