Montana’s Swedish Santa Clause
Swiss Billionaire Hansjorg Wyss donates a huge amount to protect the beautiful land we live on here in Montana. He donated $35 Million to help shield 1 million acres from future development.
Matthew Brown - Associated Press
Philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss grew up in Switzerland and now spends the bulk of his time outside Philadelphia, but it is the wild landscapes of the Rocky Mountains where he could leave his most lasting mark.
In recent years the publicity-shy billionaire has quietly donated tens of millions of dollars to the preservation of pristine areas of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and other states.
Now, what appears to be his most ambitious project to date has come to fruition as conservation groups this month closed a deal to purchase vast tracts of Plum Creek Timber Co. land in western Montana. Backers say the deal — which included $35 million in donations from Wyss — could shield an estimated one million acres from future development.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Wyss, 75, said he first became enamored of the Rockies as a college student who toured the region in 1958. And he defended his actions against those who chafe at the prospect of an outsider buying up land that in some cases has been logged, ranched or farmed for generations.
"Look, these are beautiful landscapes," Wyss said. "There was controversy when Yellowstone (National Park) was created and when they declared the Grand Canyon as a National Monument. But there are areas in the United States that must be protected."