Turner becomes largest private landowner in US

Ted Turner gave the world CNN, but the legacy he intends to leave America is not the incessant drumbeat of television news, but millions of acres of wide-open spaces teeming with wildlife and protected endangered species.

Formerly known as the Mouth from the South, the patriarch of cable news is no longer in the media business, having left Time Warner in 2003. Today, he is America's biggest conservationist as well as its largest private landowner.

Like many American outdoorsmen he is both a committed hunter and environmentalist, except that he has managed to turn his passion into a profit-making business.

Over the past few years, Ted Turner has used his $2.3bn (1.1bn) wealth to create wildlife sanctuaries across many of the two million acres he owns in 12 states as well as in the southern tip of the Americas, Patagonia.

His mostly western lands are filled with bison, native cut-throat trout and cougars in habitat that he manages in an environmentally sensitive way. Hunters and fishermen pay big fees to bag elk, deer and catch and release rare species of trout, which he has brought back from the brink of extinction. His Nebraska ranches are home to America's largest herd of buffalo, some 50,000 strong, which supply his restaurant chain, Ted's Montana Grill, with bison burgers.

The Turner land grab has, however, generated suspicion among ranchers who are complaining that this is another land grab by a rich liberal environmentalist, which is putting them out of business.

But Turner says he is more than a philanthropist, and tries to make money from all his ventures. His Vermejo Ranch in northern New Mexico was once a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. These days it is a hunting preserve for the wealthy who come to bag elk, deer, antelope and Merriman turkeys. But he is also mining for propane natural gas from the immense coal reserves beneath the ranch in an environmentally sensitive way, he says.

In the Nebraska Sandhills region, the Turner organisation recently outbid 19 local ranchers to pick up another 26,300 acres of prime ranch land for nearly $10m. The ranch had been in the same family for more than 100 years and is adjacent to a 100,000-acre spread he bought in 1995. According to the general manager, Russ Miller, the Nebraska spread was bought because it offered good grass and good water, despite a persistent drought in recent years.

"We're resilient, the bison are resilient and the Sandhills are resilient," Mr Miller said. Turner paid $17.78m for a 58,000-acre ranch in the Sandhills in 2005 and bought a 45,000-acre ranch in Sheridan County in 1998.

Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, a Turner spin-off, says his boss is just a "doggone serious rancher," dedicated to preserving the environment.

Along with his land-buying, Turner has given more than $1.5bn to charity, including the United Nations Foundation, and an initiative aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The Turner organisation is now in discussions with the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union about conserving bison.

Both groups are hoping to develop a huge park where bison could once again roam the Great Plains freely. Reports of Turner's buying spree like the Associated Press account of his Nebraska purchase have generated numerous conspiracy theories. One is that he is scheming with the United Nations to create a vast wildlife refuge that would put Nebraska ranchers and farmers out of business.

But Turner spokesmen insist that the driving force behind his land purchases is simply the desire to make money. The Vermejo Ranch offers week-long elk hunting excursions at $12,000 a pop. And there are now more than 51 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants across the country serving the famous bison burgers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us