Chile’s Native Forests Ever-Shrinking

Los Laureles Native Forest (picture by Resumen)

SANTIAGO/LONGAVÍ – Bosque Panul in Santiago’s eastern La Florida district is under threat from developers, despite local efforts to turn it into a public park. Further south in the Maule region, Longaví’s native forest will be auctioned off by the state. These types of situations are all too common in Chile. 

Real estate developers’ insatiable appetite for land is leading to the destruction of native forests across the country. In the Metropolitan region, developers seek to urbanize Bosque Panul in La Florida, east of Santiago, over the objections of neighbors. In Longaví, the government is trying to auction off native forest lands, despite resident’s complaints about irregularities in the process.

Mining companies are also eager to buy land. Interferencia recently reported that mining multinational Anglo American was interested in purchasing over 17,000 acres of Los Nogales Nature Reserve in Lo Barnechea district.

Gesterra roadworks in Bosque Panul (Picture by Red por la Defensa de la Precordillera)
Gesterra roadworks in Bosque Panul (Picture by Red por la Defensa de la Precordillera)

Bosque Panul is the last native forest in the capital. However, city expansion and demand for houses led real estate developer Gesterra to file an application to urbanize the park in January 2021 – to install roadworks, street lighting, and sanitary sewers. In 2015, district mayor Rodolfo Carter reassured his neighbors that nothing would happen to the forest, and in response to the community’s recent complaint about the approval of Gesterra’s application, Carter said it was rejected by the local government, and publicized the rejection on La Florida’s government website. However, neighbors confirmed that the application is still pending review.

Chile’s Environmental Ministry highlighted that changes in land use are among the top threats faced by nature sanctuaries. Very little is being done to prevent this, hence situations like this happen all over the country.


Native Forest Plots for Auction

Deforestation in southern Chile is not new. A joint study by Universidad de La Frontera and Universidad Austral in 2010 showed that native forest had decreased by 44 percent between 1989 and 2003, of which 27 percent was replaced by fast-growth forests for logging companies.

Residents near Los Laureles in the Maule region are concerned about plans to auction plots of native forest. The National Assets Ministry will sell nine plots of land for agricultural purposes, Resumen reported. In January 2021, neighbors filed a lawsuit to protect the land in question, due to “an irregular change in land use purposes.” Luis Soto of Los Laureles told Resumen that “this is the only native forest we have in Longaví, the rest of us are surrounded by pine trees [lumber company transplants].”

Mining Interests

Multinational mining giant Anglo American gave a presentation to discuss its interest in buying 17,000 acres of the Los Nogales Nature Reserve in the Metropolitan region, east of Lo Barnechea district. Sotheby’s was selling two plots for US$16.7 million (CLP$12 billion), which Anglo American is looking to buy. Nonetheless, sources told Interferencia that the company is only considering industrial use for the smaller 4,813-acre plot. Anglo American’s Los Bronces copper mine is located approximately seven miles away from Los Nogales.

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