A New York Times article documents the difficulty Douglas Tompkins is having protecting the thousands of square miles of pristine ecosystems he has purchased in Chile. From a historical perspective, what he has done is old hat. Wealthy individuals from Chinese emperors to British Lords have owned nature preserves. The problem is that things begin to unravel once the originator goes to heaven. One example is a private preserve in 1600s Europe that sheltered the last herd of Auroch. Cave paintings of these now-extinct wild cattle can be found in Southern France. Similarly, the last wild European Bison was killed by poachers on a private preserve in 1927 (they have since been reintroduced into the wild from zoos).My advice to Douglas, should he ever ask me, would be to line the pockets of (make political contributions to) enough conservation-minded politicians to get laws in place that will allow the creation of a conservation NGO staffed and run by conservation-minded Chileans. Humans are wired to form groups to protect themselves from other humans — thus the goose bumps caused by the national anthem when we were children, or as adults in some cases. A trust fund or two to keep these organizations humming along would also be a good idea. If he doesn’t do that before it is too late, his efforts will most certainly end when he does. Private property laws would help protect these preserves from private enterprise, and to a large extent, from government, although this post by Andy shows that nothing is foolproof.