The community of Futaleufú, Lakes Region, Chilean Patagonia
Welcome to the official site of Futaleufú Riverkeeper, Patagonia’s first Waterkeeper program! We invite you to explore, learn about the threats facing this unique part of the planet, and consider making a donation today and joining the fight to save the Fu.
Our Mission and Vision
Futaleufu Riverkeeper (legal name in Chile: Fundación Futaleufú Riverkeeper) is a Chilean not-for-profit foundation established in 2012 to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Futaleufú watershed, located in northern Patagonia. We bring legal claims against polluters and would-be dam developers, inform and mobilize community leaders to assert their rights to clean water, and advocate for national policies that ensure the permanent protection of the watershed and its communities. The organization is part of a large network, the Waterkeeper Alliance, which consists of over 300 community-based organizations in over 30 countries.
In 2016 Futaleufú Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors approved an action plan to guide the organization in accomplishing its goals at every level. Our vision is for the community of Futaleufu to become recognized as a model village, for the Futaleufu watershed to receive permanent protection under the laws of Chile, and for the country to adopt clean energy policies that remove a focus on large hydropower and prioritize river conservation.
Futaleufú Riverkeeper may be part of an international network, but at its core our work is local. We are a passionate group of people who love the Fu and are dedicated to protecting the watershed and working with local communities to promote sustainable development. If you are interested in joining our team or learning more, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
History of Futaleufu Riverkeeper: A Collective Effort
The organization was officially launched in 2012, setting up its first office in the watershed in 2013. It began with the support of key people within the Waterkeeper Alliance, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., its President, and Rodrigo de la O Guerrero. Rodrigo serves as Latin American representative on the Waterkeeper Council and Executive Director of Chile’s first Waterkeeper organization, Maule-Itata Coastkeeper.
Several Chilean and American activists were involved from the outset. Some agreed to serve as board members, while others contributed directly, whether by volunteering or agreeing to donate. The founding team met with several people to seek advice, including heads of other NGOs and other environmental lawyers. Fundación Pro Bono, Chile’s premier legal aid society, secured free legal assistance from a prominent Chilean law firm, which developed the founding bylaws and established the group as Fundación Futaleufú Riverkeeper in 2012.
This spirit of seeking collaboration is a founding principle of Futaleufu Riverkeeper. It continues to drive the organization’s mission today as we address new challenges. Examples include not just membership in Waterkeeper Alliance, but also Chile’s Mesa Ciudadana del Cambio Climático, the Kayak Stewards Project, Acción Conservación, and IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law.
Looking Back on Our First Three Years.
Adapting a U.S. community-based form of advocacy to Chile is challenging. Laws and policies are different, the culture is drastically different, and few organizations have raised the funds needed to grow their team over the last decades. As a small organization with limited financial resources, our team utilizes a lean start-up model. We seek out reputable partners to develop free research and adapt quickly to new circumstances (like hydro developer Endesa’s decision to relinquish its water rights) without requiring significant funds. Key partnerships with institutions like Yale’s Environmental Protection Clinic and the Vance Center for International Justice provide free research and pro bono assistance.
Our team has grown since 2012. It now includes a small but committed team of people in Futaleufu and volunteers around the globe. We work at the local, national and international levels to fight for clean water. For the 2016 year, Futaleufu Riverkeeper’s board of directors approved a budget of $89,000 USD. If you would like to contribute please visit our Donation page.
Our Genesis: the Hudson Riverkeeper
2016 marks the 50th year anniversary of the first Riverkeeper organization, established in 1966 in New York as the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association (HRFA). It was the team at Hudson Riverkeeper that would inspire Patagonia’s first Waterkeeper program. Our belief in the Waterkeeper model comes from working in the Hudson valley, where our founding team learned from the fishermen, scientists, attorneys and policy experts who together defend the iconic Hudson River. So what exactly is a Riverkeeper?
The original Riverkeeper was founded 50 years ago by a group of fishermen after a two-decades long struggle in which large corporate polluters depleted the estuarine habitat upon which their livelihoods depended. Through a series of landmark environmental cases and shaping public policy, the group achieved a number of early successes to hold polluters accountable for their actions. HRFA would later employ a Riverkeeper to patrol the Hudson, and in 1986 changed the organization’s name to reflect the central role of that person in monitoring and protecting the watershed. Since then the original Hudson Riverkeeper has restored the Hudson River and inspired a global movement.
There are now over 300 Waterkeepers around the world, each one identifying themselves by the bodies of water they protect. They include Baykeepers, Coastkeepers, Soundkeepers and Riverkeepers (or Guardianes del Río) like us. Find your nearest Waterkeeper program here and learn more about the movement.
In Chile the first Waterkeeper organization was Maule Itata Coastkeeper, established in January 2009 through a partnership between the Save The Waves Coalition, Fiscalia del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), and Waterkeeper Alliance. Maule Itata Coastkeeper (in Spanish, Vigilante Costero Maule Itata) is responsible for protecting and monitoring the environmental health of the coastal waters and coastline of south-central Chile’s Maule and Bio Bio Regions.
Futaleufú Riverkeeper joins Maule Itata Coastkeeper as Chile’s second Waterkeeper, and the first Waterkeeper in Patagonia.
About the Founder
Futaleufú Riverkeeper was originally founded by Chilean environmental attorney Robert Currie Ríos in 2012. Early in his career, Robert interned at the Hudson Riverkeeper in New York. Robert holds a first law degree from Universidad Andres Bello, a postgraduate degree in Environmental Law from Universidad de Chile, and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from Columbia Law School in New York, and is a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law. Robert currently works in the public sector in Santiago, where he returned after completing his LL.M. degree in New York.
About Waterkeeper Alliance
Waterkeeper Alliance is our umbrella organization and fiscal sponsor in the U.S. It was established in New York in 1999 to better coordinate the growing number of keeper organizations around the world and help address common issues across borders. While the movement is a global one, each Waterkeeper organization is devoted to the preservation of a specific watershed. Today the Waterkeeper movement is the fastest growing grassroots environmental movement in the world, spanning six continents. Together we are working to protect rivers, lakes, bays, sounds, and other water bodies around the globe. You can support us by making a donation through Waterkeeper and joining the movement today!