Swiss Wyss, Montana isn't a real place with a real zip code, but to many locals, it might as well be. In 2010, Swiss billionaire Hans Wyss bankrolled a $35 million preservation deal arranged by the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. His goal was to preserve and protect a chunk of land in Big Sky Country from future land developments, but Wyss' deep pockets have some of the natives a bit restless.
Wyss fell in love with the American west back in the late 1950s when he backpacked through the Colorado Rockies. Since then, he has adored all the Rocky Mountain States, and his environment preservation efforts reflect that adoration. For the record, Hans Wyss doesn't even live in Montana — he resides in a posh suburb of Philadelphia. Also for the record, he has vowed that the land will not be used for a private estate. Hans Wyss is not like the laundry list of celebrities that have bought up land in Montana—or as they like to refer to their little pieces of the planet — ranches. Those purchases didn't seem to rile up the locals, but Hans Wyss' is continuing to draw ire. What gives?
Unlike celebrities, Wyss is a very private man. Also unlike celebrities, his "land purchase" isn't for a couple of acres of land — it's for an estimated one million acres. Oh, and he's Swiss. Some locals don't like "The fact that they're coming from all over with these big bucks…" The fact is, Wyss' interest in giving $35 million to Montana's land conservation efforts was not made on a whim. Meaning, he wasn't lazing around on a Sunday afternoon and said "You know what? I think I'll buy a piece of Montana today."
Apparently, the land in question was set to be parceled off and sold by its then owners to be developed into things most of us dislike, like strip malls. Had Wyss and other donors such as the Packard Foundation that gave $15 million toward the conservation efforts, not swooped in with their "big bucks," locals may have seen the neon lights of dollar stores and donut shops in their future rather than winding rivers and fireflies.