The Chilean government is in the line of fire. It is being accused by local environmentalist groups of hold- ing up a private project aimed to save a vast tract of the virgin rainforests, only to ensure the well-being of the nation's flourishing timber and salmon companies, who are exploiting the land.

The project in central Chile was proposed by Douglas Tompkin, a us businessman turned ecologist, who had envisaged a huge private nature park, stretching over 750,000 acres, parts of which were, to be opened to public, some to be kept virgin and the rest used for scientific research. But now he is being forced to suspend his plans because the government will not allow him to buy a piece of land between 2 areas he already owns. The reason given for this is that the project would cut the narrow country into half. The government has now offered to buy the remaining land between Tompkin's 2 pieces.

Tompkin, who has already sunk us $344 million in the project and spent nearly 4 years designing it is furious. "What the government is doing is unilaterally forcing itself on us as an unwanted minority partner," he grumbles.