In April, when over a billion dollars was donated for the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral, many people were asking why such large sums of money aren’t available for more pressing issues like homelessness or the environment. It is certainly rare for such a large contribution to go towards something that actually helps the planet, but it does happen every now and then.
Last October, Billionaire philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, CEO of the Wyss Foundation, pledged to donate a billion dollars towards environmental conservation efforts over the next ten years.
In an article for the New York Times, Wyss announced an incredible plan to buy large plots of land all over the world and turn them into parks that will be open to the public.
“It is the idea that 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 for everyone to experience and explore. The notion of holding these places in public trust was one I became deeply influenced by as a young man, when I first climbed and hiked on public lands in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains,” Wyss said.
Every one of us – citizens, philanthropists, business and government leaders – should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. It is a gap that we must urgently narrow, before our human footprint consumes the earth’s remaining wild places,” he added.
Wyss hopes that his contribution will be able to protect 30% of the planet by the year 2030.
— Wyss Campaign for Nature (@WyssCampaign) October 31, 2018
According to Business Insider Wyss has already donated more than $66 million to at least nine different organizations in the two months after making his pledge.
Some of those donations included $750,000 to help the Dehcho First Nations in Canada create a management program for the Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area in the Northwest Territories, which is part of a 3.5 million acre wetlands ecosystem and home to many animals. The foundation is also making a $5.8 million donation to Aves Argentinas, the oldest conservation group in Argentina. This donation will help create a 1.5 million acre national park. Wyss is also donating $22 million to Fundación Flora y Fauna, to establish a 178,000 acre national park in Argentina’s Tucumán Province.
Hansjörg Wyss may not be a household name, even for conservationists, but he has been silently donating his millions to the environment for the past twenty years. In fact, Wyss has given over $450 million to similar efforts prior to his recent pledge.
In his Op-Ed for the Times, Wyss said shared his optimism for the future.
“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. I believe this ambitious goal is achievable because I’ve seen what can be accomplished. Indigenous peoples, local leaders and conservation groups around the world are already busy setting aside protected areas that reflect the conservation, economic and cultural values of nearby communities,” Wyss said.
“I’ve seen this unfold firsthand. Over the past two decades, my foundation has supported local efforts to protect wild places in Africa, South America, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the United States, donating more than $450 million to help our partners conserve nearly 40 million acres of land and water,” he added.