Anderson: Turner sets example for conservationists with his ranches

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2013 - 1:04 AM

Ted Turner, the rancher of CNN fame, is a conservationist but realistic, too.

hide

Ted Turner arrives at the Environmental Media Awards at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010.

Photo: Dan Steinberg, Dml - Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Ted Turner the caricature is the type of person Midwesterners love to hate: rich, abrasive and a know-it-all. Or at least that’s what many of us understood about him during his quest for the America’s Cup (he won the sailing race in 1977), the founding of CNN, and as the owner of just about everything a person might want, including nearly 2 million acres of ranchland flush with fish and wildlife.

But a new book about Turner by a native Minnesotan paints a much more generous picture of the media mogul turned conservationist, and suggests some of Turner’s ideas about land, water and wildlife stewardship could play vital roles in sustaining life as we know it — for everyone.

Titled “Last Stand. Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet” (Lyons Press, 372 pages, $26.95), the book consumed author Todd Wilkinson for the better part of seven years, partly because Turner notoriously had been wary of journalists and unwilling to reveal much about his personal life.

Turner’s marriage to actress Jane Fonda in 1991 and the endless media curiosity that followed perhaps caused him to withdraw even more.

Wilkinson, who grew up in Mora and graduated from St. Olaf, first interviewed Turner in 1992. By then, Turner had purchased the largest ranch in Montana, the Flying D, and was introducing controversial ideas about how it should be managed.

“When I first interviewed Ted, I asked him what his vision was for the ranch, and he said he wanted to restore wildness to the land,” said Wilkinson, who lives in Bozeman, Mont.

Turner began by selling the ranch’s cattle and replacing them with bison. He also tore down fences, essentially trying to re-invent the Flying D as it was pre-settlement. Though Turner hunts and is an avid fly fisherman, his intent wasn’t to manage the land for its recreational benefit. Instead, he thought cattle were too destructive to the ranch’s grasslands, and that reintroducing bison would be a first move in a long-range effort to return the land to elk, wolves, mule deer, white-tailed deer and grizzlies, in addition to bison, which he intended to raise for profit.

Today, Turner also owns ranches in New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Nebraska. His intent with each is the same: produce enough income to sustain the lands as he wants them.

“Ted has been called a ‘Lefty’ by some people who don’t know him, for his environmental interests,” Wilkinson said. “But he’s actually part fiscal conservative and part eco-progressive.”

As a businessman, Turner knows that if conservation can’t sustain itself economically, it won’t last, Wilkinson said.

“He views the ‘economy vs. ecology’ idea as a false dichotomy,” Wilkinson said. “He also argues that people who measure land’s highest value in terms of its development potential have it wrong. Land’s highest value is achieved when it’s managed for its ecological value.”

Here’s Turner in the foreword to Wilkinson’s book:

“Those who claim that one can’t hug a sheltering tree and simultaneously aspire to have economic prosperity and strive to give all people a decent quality of life are being disingenuous. On my lands, I have set out to prove that the polemic of environment vs. economy is a false dichotomy, that you can be a tree hugger and still have your name appear in Forbes.

“I’ve always looked at the future as a realm full of boundless possibility. But I’m worried. Never before has humanity confronted so many epic issues — nuclear proliferation, swelling human population, a vast gulf between haves and have-nots, the biodiversity crisis, social tensions, environmental degradation and climate change — converging at once. The chances that we might fail in our endeavor to save ourselves are high. The scientific evidence is clear and putting our heads in the sand doesn’t change reality.”

Wilkinson’s book helps dispel false notions about an energetic visionary and suggests, as Wilkinson puts it, that “Turner’s conservation example opens a kind of dialogue that we’re not having in this country.”

Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in Minnesota, where farmers and developers so often are at odds with conservationists, with no one winning and the state’s land and water losing.

“We live in urgent times,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone can do their part, you don’t have to be rich. But it helps to have big players like Turner come on board who can think on a systemic level.”

 

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Todd Wilkinson

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston - LP: B. Workman 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3
Toronto - LP: A. Sanchez 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 3
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Hand 2
Los Angeles 6 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
Cleveland 1 Bottom 9th Inning
Houston 1
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 9th Inning
St. Louis 2
Arizona 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Colorado 4
Philadelphia 1 Bottom 6th Inning
San Diego 3
Seattle 0 Bottom 4th Inning
LA Angels 0
Tampa Bay 0 4th Qtr
Atlanta 56
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close