The Patagonia Sur Documentary Project: Field Notes—Reforesting Patagonia
March 6th, 2012
Bridget Besaw: Documentary adventures in Patagonia, Chile.
One aspect of the Patagonia Sur story that compels me is their carbon-offset program. They have a vision of reforesting much of their land as another means to create a diverse, financially sustainable way to invest in the future Patagonia.
As a documentarian, I tend to prefer photographing something that is actually happening as apposed to illustrating an idea. So I’d been struggling with how to visually tell this story of their work in reforestation and carbon sales. I hadn’t come up with a good option since the actual tree planting doesn’t happen for another few months and so at this moment, these tiny trees are just growing, waiting to become a native, tall, proud carbon sequestering forest someday.
I heard that Patagonia Sur had created an internship program with three students from the University of Chile to be on the property for 2 months collecting data and evaluating the previously planted plots of native trees (mostly Lenga, Coihue and Nirre). This is in conjunction with a visit from the US VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) validator, so I finally had the “action on the ground” I’d been looking for.
Dani and I hopped on the horses to follow the monitoring and VCS team through the valley amidst the giant Lenga. These trees were burned 50 years ago when this entire valley, and much of Patagonia had been burned to the ground to make way for grazing.
But if you look (and step) carefully, you will see the beginnings of a new forest. Baby Coihue and Nirre trees less than a foot tall are scattered throughout the valley among the graveyard of their ancestors.
I asked Javier (see “Gaucho” post) to join us since we are making a short film about how his life has changed since Patagonia Sur bought these lands. Javier was actually on the crew that planted the trees last year, so I wanted some footage of him in that setting—a stark contrast to Gauchos of past generations.
We listened (and photographed and shot video) as Matias Rio, the Patagonia Sur Manager of Forestry Operations explained to the VCS validator how the plots had been planted randomly to simulate the way a native forest would begin. They collected data to verify that the project was legitimate and well managed. A VCS certification will help Patagonia Sur to better market the carbon that will be contained in these trees. And, one day it will hopefully look like the 400+ year old Lenga forest on the western side of the valley that was spared from the flames.