A report from the General Audit Office (AGN) notes that there are uncontrolled livestock and "inaction" by the state threaten the conservation of three protected areas containing native Patagonian forests, lakes, prairielands, varied wildlife and even archaeological and historical heritage, as fossil remains and cave paintings of about a thousand years old.

The areas concerned are the National Park Perito Moreno Glacier and Tierra del Fuego, which were analyzed by the inspection body in an investigation that aimed to verify how the Plan of Management of Protected Areas of the Patagonian Eco-Region- Forest Patagonia Sur, is carried out by the National Parks Administration.

The survey, which was approved this year from data collected between 2011 and the first half of 2013, also stressed on the one hand, the lack of qualified personnel and, on the other that no measurements are made to determine how many visitors can be received without altering the environment.

Perito Moreno and Private Activity

In its report, the AGN says that the Perito Moreno (declared a National Park in 1971) has a total area of 115 thousand hectares, divided into two major areas, located in the Midwest of Santa Cruz.

Faced with such a scenario, the Watchdog said the park "lacks specialized human resources." In fact, until 2013 there were only 10 employees, including a ranger (the mayor) accompanied by support staff and brigade members, all of whom are temporary workers. According to the survey, this provision is insufficient to implement an Environmental Education Plan.

And how do they work? The audit noted during its visit that "there are no records of formulated projects or conservation actions, but three isolated management of exotic species."

Another aspect highlighted in the research is that "there are archaeological sites affected by the presence of cattle." And here arises the question of private exploitation of protected areas. The AGN promptly says: "failure of the authorities of the park is evident in negotiation for the management of livestock found in the Estancia Lake Belgrano. This is a problem that has stood out year after year. 

There is a lack of control of livestock on that property that affects the conservation of native forests. And since 1998 the authorities (of Perito Moreno) suggested to acquire Central National Parks facilities, allowing the elimination of livestock and resolving infrastructure problems. Today it is a private residence with temporary occupancy permit and pasture.”

Glacier: No One’s Cows, Graffiti and Neighborhood Issues
Comprised of 600,000 hectares located in the southwest of Santa Cruz, in Los Glaciares National Park "it is almost the entire southern Patagonian (continental ice) present in Argentina, including the main cap and many glaciers of the valley," says the AGN on a land in 1981 became part of the Unesco World Heritage, "which implies a recognition of its value at an international level."

Unlike the Perito Moreno, the "main problem" of Los Glaciares is not generated by the private sector, but by the so-called free cattle, i.e., domestic animals that have been released or who were born in the wild, without human intervention.

So much so, that the report recalls that the authorities of the property in 2007 presented to the National Parks Administration an eradication to achieve, within five years with a budget of almost a million pesos, reversing the deterioration occurred by these animals. However, the entity in question "has not approved the project," and so the population of cattle won eight years ago, which was estimated at 5,000 heads-, grew at a rate of a thousand a year, "occupying 20% of the total protected area, "warns the investigation.

And as if that were not enough, the AGN also describes what is observed in the Alero Rock. The report says: "This site contains cave paintings about 1,000 years old. It was qualified for tourism in 1998 but was damaged by graffiti. In a survey conducted in 2005 it concluded that 30% of the damage was caused by direct harm. In 2011 a site visit was undertaken to mitigate damage and mask graffiti, but the effectiveness of these measures could not be assessed. Finally, another visit was proposed in 2012 to take samples for 10 weeks, but there is no documentary evidence that this activity has taken place."

Moreover, the technical feature between National Parks and Santa Cruz was signed in 2004, a loan agreement for 99 years for the province to build tourist care services in an area of "intensive public use" located in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier. On this, the AGN found that while the agreement "did not set any deadline" so that the works were made, "10 years after the signing, the works are unfinished and there is no evidence of any follow-up (the national body) to assess the progress" of the enterprise.

There are also boundary problems. According to the audit, this is related to the reservation boundaries between Glacier and the town of El Chalten: it turns out that this community was formed in 1989 through a "transfer of land free of charge" of the National Government to the province of Santa Cruz, in an agreement approved by law 23,766. However this operation "has not been formalized," says the research. Therefore, in 2012 both sides negotiated an exchange of hectares which, however, is still "pending the completion of surveying in the land swap, the reversal of El Chalten National Protected Area System, ratification of boundaries and sanitation legal defects of the sale of a plot" and so on.

Regarding human resources, the AGN concluded that "the management is inefficient" because "trained staff is scarce and about to retire." Also, when auditors visited the site they found that a provision which until 2013 stood at 134 members, several workers "enjoyed different types of licenses and their jobs had no replacements."
Tierra del Fuego: Problems with Rabbits and Concheros
The Tierra del Fuego National Park covers an area of almost 69,000 hectares and is located in the southwest corner of the province, ranging from the Sierra de Beauvoir to the coast of the Beagle Channel.
There, the audit noted "conservation problems" in the Yamana archaeological sites, also called middens. In addition, "some of the areas near the sites for public use are more damaged by trampling, especially those that are crossed by heavily traveled and campsites near tourist trails," says the report.

The Watchdog added that while "the actions developed by the Park hit their targets, controlling the impact of the massive hits", but a "major loss factor, which was not corrected appears and is related to the presence rabbits." In that sense, the text states that "no projects are planned for control of this species, although the problem is reiterating" in recent years.

In the visit to the Park, the AGN remarked: "Camp Rock Lake is a mostly overripe forest sector, implying a risk to people by natural falling trees." In the area "there is a space with open sewage, it was also detected hidden behind a structure in the area of the concession services. At this, the technicians say there was no evidence of reports of park rangers or dealer injunction actions for remediation."

And on the strength of workers, it was found that the Park "has hired only for the conservation area (2), and one destined for the entire public sector personal use. Concluding that, human resources are not sufficient for all the tasks."

Public Use, Fire and Coincidences

In the audit report a situation matching the three National Parks was detailed.

Not one has a Public Use Plan or capacity studies, which analyzes that established capacity of visitors that the complex can receive without altering the environment.

In the Perito Moreno, for example, they do keep track of visitors, but "no corresponding data processing is performed." Meanwhile, Los Glaciares, stressed the AGN, need to do these measurements, because "public use areas are, precisely, those with greater wealth in number of species."

And in the Park Tierra del Fuego a type of bottleneck occurs: by offering tours provided by tour operators and limited time availability of arriving passengers on cruises "generates concentrations of visitors in the main sights of the protected area and at certain times of the day." 

There is also another coincidence between parks and Perito Moreno Glacier, "although both have a guide for forest fire protection, they do not have a comprehensive plan of Fire, and Emergency Communication."

On the other hand, in the park Tierra del Fuego there has been a Forest Fire Protection Plan since 2006. Not only that, but "there is also a communications protocol and a protocol of rescue work in conjunction with Provincial Civil Defense, with police and guards." However, the auditors found that "while this is operating, the corresponding Act Agreement was never signed.”