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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine