Halter Ranch Vineyard owner will donate $1 billion to conserve land around the world

The owner of Halter Ranch Vineyard announced Thursday he intends to donate $1 billion to help local conservation efforts around the world.

Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss entrepreneur, purchased the 2,000-acre west Paso Robles vineyard in 2000. Wyss is one of the richest men in the world, with a net worth of $5.8 billion, according to Forbes.

In 2012, he sold Synthes Inc. — his medical device company — to Johnson & Johnson for more than $20 billion, according to a Tribune story.

Now, Wyss wants to use his money to help nonprofits and conservation groups preserve international land and ocean habitats.

In a New York Times editorial published online Thursday, Wyss wrote that his goal is to “protect 30 percent of the planet’s surface by 2030.”

“We need to embrace the radical, time-tested and profoundly democratic idea of public-land protection that was invented in the United States, tested in Yellowstone and Yosemite, and now proven the world over,” he wrote in the editorial.

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The Wyss Campaign for Nature has already identified nine different preservation projects it will help finance in places such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Zimbabwe and Romania, according to its website.

Wyss remains involved in Halter Ranch’s day-to-day operations and “loves this property, the place and the people,” said Tessa Eberle, the vineyard’s marketing coordinator, in response to emailed questions.

Eberle said Halter Ranch continues Wyss’ philosophy by farming the property sustainably. Only 18 percent of the land is dedicated to grapes and buildings, with the rest left as natural landscape.

“Mr. Wyss has been coming to Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo County for over 20 years,” Eberle said. “He brings the same visionary leadership to Halter Ranch as he does with his philanthropy globally.”

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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