The idea for the CCCX came out from discussions in 2015 in Northern Patagonia among the beloved late conservationist Elisa Corcuera with David Tecklin, Francisco “Pancho” Solis and Ralph Benson regarding the obviously similar landscapes of Chile and California and the fact that Chile was developing new laws and institutions for the protection of its coast, its marine environment, wetlands and Mediterranean zone. California’s experience over the past 50 seemed relevant to the process.
Upon returning to California, through his Berkeley neighbor U.C. Davis Professor Lovell “Tu” Jarvis, Ralph was introduced to Tomás McKay, a Chilean architect with broad interests in conservation teaching at UC Berkeley. Tomás and Ralph with the help of their many friends in Chile and the U.S. set about organizing the CCCX.
The first CCCX conference took place in September 2017 in Sonoma County, California with a focus on coastal protection, strategies for protecting Mediterranean landscapes and tax policy. About 30 Chilean conservation leaders from government, academia and the nonprofit sector came north to meet with a like number of California peers. Charles Lester, Director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center in the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara and former Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission and Sam Schuchat, now retired Executive Officer of the California Coastal Conservancy, gave an in depth presentation on the California Coastal Act and California’s experience with coastal planning and regulation. The conference explored Chile’s newly created Derecho Real de Conservación (something like a conservation easement.) We were honored to have with us Senator Alphonso De Urresti, one of the authors of the legislation creating the Derecho Real (and author of a subsequent law on wetlands). With the help of Roberto Peralta and Miguel Zamora the conference also looked at the challenging tax regime in Chile and impediments to conservation philanthropy.
In early 2018 the CCCX sent a small delegation including Charles Lester and Sam Schuchat to Chile to conduct a workshop on coastal planning. That is where we connected with Matías Alcalde, then with Fundación Punta de Lobos and now with the Chile California Council. Our workshops coincided with the Second Congress of the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN). The ILCN headed by Jim Levitt was a useful model and helpful in getting the CCCX off the ground. Charles Lester also participated in a Land-Sea Interaction Workshop in Huaquen organized by the P. Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago and U.C. Davis. Our delegation had the further good fortune of attending the ceremony at Valle Chacabuco in northern Patagonia where then President Batchelet accepted on behalf of the Republic of Chile the extraordinary Tomkins legacy of five new national parks from Kristine McDivitt Tomkins. We were joined by then U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Carol Perez.
The second CCCX conference took place October, 2018 in Santa Cruz, California. Coastal planning, alliances and conservation philanthropy were leading topics. We were joined by Felipe Ward, the Minister Bienes Nacionales. Also attending were two future governors, Patricio Vallespín who was elected Governor of the Los Lagos Region in 2021 and Jorge Flies who was elected Governor of the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Region. The 2021 elections were the first time regional governors were elected in Chile. Previously they had been appointed from Santiago.
The third CCCX conference convened in Marshall, California on Tomales Bay near Pt. Reyes on October 19, 2019, the very day civil unrest broke out in Santiago. The 35 Chilean participants in the conference who had left for California just before the airport shut down were understandably concerned about family and friends at home. Nonetheless the conference proceeded with a focus on climate change and the upcoming COP 25 which was then scheduled for December in Santiago. (It was later moved to Madrid, Spain.) We were welcomed by Congessman Jared Huffman. Nicolás Westenenk, the Climate Action Coordinator of the COP was our featured speaker. The conference continued our exploration of coastal planning with additional panels on marine conservation. Large landscape protection strategies, parks, standards for private land conservation, conservation philanthropy and communications were also on the agenda. The work of these conferences is being carried on in Chile by multiple networks including Observatorio de la Costa and Red de Filantrópia Ambiental.
2020 & 2021
Plans for a fourth annual CCCX conference to be held in Chile were set aside, initially because of the continuing civil unrest in Chile and subsequently and definitively with the onset of the pandemic. We pivoted to a collaborative project that could be done on line and that would contribute to the constitutional process that was unfolding in Chile. The public trust doctrine is a common law concept that holds certain natural resources are held by the State “in trust”, that is, owned by and for the people including future generations. The State has a special duty to protect these resources and cannot dispose of them (for example by the granting of “concessions” or “rights”) without continuing to protect the public interest. Thus private rights (in fresh water for example) must “accommodate” the public interest in a healthy sustainable environment. Citizens have the right to go to court to enforce the public trust. The public trust doctrine is a feature of California law, but not of the Chilean legal system.
A group of scholars in the U.S. led by Professors Michael Blumm of Lewis & Clark Law School and Carl Bauer at the University of Arizona produced a white paper on the public trust doctrine. It was given to a group of legal and constitutional scholars in Chile under the leadership of Professor Dominique Hervé at Univeridad Diego Portales who expanded the white paper into a report that analyses the public trust doctrine and explores what it might add to the Chilean legal system. Protección de la Naturaleza y Una Nueva Constitutción para Chile: Lecciones de la Doctina del Public Trust was published in May, 2021 in Spanish and English and has entered into the constitutional discourse. A series of webinars sponsored by Universidad Diego Portales and the CCCX followed.
Under the leadership of Dominique Hervé and Verónica Delgado the report inspired the concept of La Custodia Pública de la Naturaleza which became part of the proposed Constitution that was rejected in September 2022; however, the concept remains viable for continuing constitutional discussions.
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