Ted Turner is a Man of Action

June 4, 2009

Ted Turner, once known as “the mouth from the south,” may be better known as the man who created the Cable News Network (CNN) or the man who owned the Atlanta Braves from 1976 to 2007. He’s won the America’s Cup and was once married to actress Jane Fonda.  Did you also know that he currently holds 42 honorary degrees, he’s won 176 sailing trophies, and he owns the largest private bison herd (50,000 head) in the world? But that’s not what impresses me…

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Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States, with 2 million acres spread across 15 ranches in 7 states. Add to this more than 100,000 acres in Argentina, and the father of five now owns an empire larger than the state of Delaware. The Land Report came out with its second annual comprehensive study of America’s largest landowners, in which Ted Turner is featured front and center. It’s a great article. Click on the following image to download a copy of The Land Report’s 100 Largest Landowners in America.

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I was never very impressed by Ted Turner. Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about him. I heard him speak in 1997 at the Land Trust Alliance Rally in Savannah, Georgia. He gave the keynote address shortly after gifting $1 billion to the United Nations. I was blown away not only by his generosity but also the rules by which he lives his life. I remember he carried a small card in his breast pocket. He had written a list of things he wanted to accomplish in his life, and each morning he would recite that list as a reminder of how he would change the world. Reducing world hunger and eliminating nuclear weapons were just two of the things on his list.

I found out that Ted Turner doesn’t just talk the talk – he has a habit of walking the walk and putting his money where his mouth is. He backed up his commitment to population control and women’s health by donating $1 billion to the United Nations. He backed up his commitment to a ban on nuclear weapons by forming the Nuclear Weapons Initiative with former U.S. Senator, Sam Nunn.

In a 2008 interview with Ted Turner, Scott McMillion, a staff writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, gives a pretty good accounting of where Ted has put his money in the last few years: churches, schools, museums, land trust organizations, wolf reintroduction, the eradication of measles.

call-me-tedTed’s commitment to renewable energy, population control, women’s health, the reduction of global warming and malaria, as well as an established record of advocating (and funding) biodiversity conservation efforts  are now documented in his autobiography, Call Me Ted.

The book is available in an audiobook, read by Ted himself.

Listen to an excerpt

Ted is so committed to conservation that he donated the development rights on nearly all of his 2 million acres to The Nature Conservancy. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done to preserve and protect the properties and I’ve tried to do everything I can to make sure that they’re maintained after I’m gone. With my passing the properties will be protected by conservation easements.”

One last thing about Ted’s conservation ethic that impresses me…he established the Turner Endangered Species Fund, the only such private effort to conserve biodiversity. The organization is dedicated to conserving biodiversity by ensuring the persistence of imperiled species and their habitats. Its primary focus is on carnivores, grasslands and plant pollinators and their projects range across the U.S. and Argentina.

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Here’s an excerpt from the Fund’s website:

Every year tens of thousands of species and attendant ecological interactions, fine-tuned by time and place, disappear at the hand of man. Without doubt, the extinction crisis is one of humanity’s most pressing problems. This trend is especially troubling because we believe that while effective conservation programs implemented on public land will help, the extinction crisis will not be arrested without the keen involvement of private landowners. Nearly 90% of the 1,119 species the federal government considers at risk of extinction occur on nonfederal lands, and half occur exclusively on nonfederal lands. Media executive Ted Turner realized that as the largest private landowner in the country with holdings that included over 1.5 million acres and a desire to acquire more land, his active involvement in the conservation of imperiled species could significantly improve the recovery prospects for many plants and animals, serve as an example to other landowners that coexistence with endangered species was possible…

Our activities are based on the principles of conservation biology, and we work closely with state and federal agencies, Universities, and non-governmental organization. We operate on the belief that many minds wrapped around a problem is a certain route to success.

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