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

November 3, 2018

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. [Cal Coast Times]

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.

Jorge Estrada

Medical Manufacturing what?


America is actually pretty good about conserving land and wildlife compared to most of the world. Elephants, rhinos and other African species are early extinct thanks to poaching and land development. These nations do not have the resources nor the will (with a few exceptions) to do much about it. A dollar there goes a lot farther. There are many wildlife groups that are already “on the ground” here and abroad who could do a whole lot more with this kind of money. Given the miniscule amount of money in the state and federal government budgets for parks and wildlife conservation, working with existing groups might be more effective than simply buying up massive amounts of land and expecting the government to manage it.


Global temps have gone up about 1 degree since Charlemagne was emperor. Oh no. Panic. Hysteria. Raise taxes on Americans. Quickly!


I guess the climate change fanatics don’t care much for real science. State a fact and they don’t even try to respond, just click their little down button. Sad little people with sad little brains.

Russ J

Mr. Wyss, why don’t you start right here at home? Convert your enlarged vineyard to it’s natural state and stop pumping water from the aquifer. This would truly be a noble and just cause for the environment. Or you could just buy down available acreage and potential commerce that would have benefited other people. Hypocrite billionaires seem to be multiplying every day.


I am confused. Are you an environmentalist truly upset about our local aquifer? Or are you the type always in search of a wrong; showing “us the hypocrisy of everything” so you can continue to do nothing? It is hard to tell where you wanted your arrow to land.

If you were concerned about the environment you’d take the billion dollars, happily, to buy up land (with river and streams) to protect it. Recharging water systems along the way.

You would already know this. So my early money was on your strategic apathy. But the last part says it all; you’re pissed that he is buying land up and preventing you (the collective you) from paving over it. That gave it away!! You are concern trolling; which is textbook hypocrisy. Ironic.

I say he is putting his money, 1/6, where his mouth is. Which is just the opposite of hypocrisy.