When Doug Tompkins wants to drop in on his neighbor, the best way to do so -- in fact, the only way to do so -- is to fire up his Cessna 206 and fly across the vast subtropical wetlands that he owns in this remote corner of northeastern Argentina.
I'm along for the ride with Tompkins, and I must admit, I'm nervous. Not only is this six-seater the smallest airplane I've ever been in, but it's also windy outside -- and storm clouds are gathering. Not to worry, my pilot assures me.
"I've been a pilot longer than you've been alive," says Tompkins, 66. And it's true.
During the flight we pass a thousand feet over the wetlands, and I watch the landscape change rapidly below: Long, thin lagoons slice through thick fields of brown marsh. Tiny floating islands sit engulfed by lush green prairies. With his keen eye, Tompkins spots a lone marsh deer, knee-deep in water, munching on grass. More than 350 bird species live in the wetlands, which is roughly the size of Belgium.
"It's a hotspot for biodiversity. It's full of creatures. Aquatic creatures. Creatures flying in the air, and on the ground. So its conservation is important: To Argentina and to the world," he says. Read full article »