Paso Robles vineyard owner to donate $1 billion to conservation efforts

Hansjorg Wyss

Swiss billionaire and owner of Halter Ranch Vineyard in rural Paso Robles, Hansjorg Wyss, has a mission to conserve 30 percent of the earth’s surface by 2030, and he has announced he is donating $1 billion to the cause.

In a New York Times op-ed headlined, ‘We have to save the planet. So I’m donating $1 billion,” Wyss argues shifting land and water from private hands to public ownership helps preserve plant and wildlife species faced with extinction as a result of climate change. Likewise, placing land in public trust allows for sustainable economic growth and helps preserve cultural values, Wyss argues.

“Wild lands and waters are best conserved not in private hands, locked behind gates, but as public national parks, wildlife refuges and marine reserves, forever open to everyone to experience and explore,” Wyss wrote in the op-ed.

The Swiss billionaire, who made his fortune in the medical manufacturing industry, wrote that plant and animal species are estimated to be disappearing at a rate 1,000 times faster than prior to the arrival of human beings. Climate change has imperiled forests, fisheries and drinking water supplies, Wyss stated.

Wyss cites scientists as saying humans might need to protect half the planet to save a large majority of plant and wildlife species from extinction.

“We have to protect half to save the whole,” Wyss wrote.

Wyss vows to donate the $1 billion over the next decade to accelerate land and ocean conservation worldwide. The money will support local conservation efforts, raise public awareness about his initiative and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach the target, he wrote.

Over the past two decades, Wyss’s foundation has already donated more than $450 million to help partners conserve 40 million acres of land and water around the world, Wyss stated.

Currently residing in Wilson, Wyoming, Wyss has a net worth of $5.7 billion, according to Forbes. Wyss is the former CEO and largest shareholder of Synthes, a multinational medical device manufacturer. In 2012, Wyss sold Synthes to Johnson & Johnson for $20.2 billion.

Wyss purchased 900 acres of Halter Ranch in 2000, and enlarged the vineyard to its current size of 280 acres, according to the ranch website. Wyss believes Paso Robles is the best place in California to pursue his dream of producing world-class grapes and wines, the site states.

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