WILSON — A Wyoming billionaire philanthropist has made a strong pledge in support of land conservation. In a New York Times opinion piece published Wednesday, Hansjorg Wyss, a Wilson resident, said he would put $1 billion toward boosting land and ocean conservation in the next 10 years.
“This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target,” Wyss wrote. The philanthropist, who was born in Switzerland but became convinced of the power of protected natural spaces by spending time in the Rocky Mountains as a young man, said he and his nonprofit, the Wyss Foundation, have spent $450 million to protect about 40 million acres of land in the past two decades. But, he wrote, that is just a fraction of what he believes needs to be saved.
“Some scientists, including the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, have concluded that at least half the planet needs to be protected to save a large majority of plant and wildlife species from extinction,” he wrote.
Wyss waded into local land conservation in 2013, when nearly 47,800 acres of Bridger-Teton National Forest land in the Upper Hoback River watershed were slated to open for oil and gas development. Wyss donated about half of the $8.75 million needed to permanently retire the land’s development leases.
For Wyss’ new global initiative, he wrote that it would be directed under the auspices of his foundation.
The effort will be called the Wyss Campaign for Nature, Communication Manager Greg Zimmerman wrote in an email. The nonprofit boasted assets of nearly $2.2 billion in its 2015 tax filings, but it was not clear from Wyss’ op-ed whether the newly pledged funding would come from his personal coffers or the assets already owned by the foundation.
By Tom Hallberg
Jackson Hole Daily Via Wyoming News Exchange