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The Future of Ted Turner's Land

Herd of Bison

There have been many questions over the years about billionaire Ted Turner’s land purchases. Why is he buying it? What will he do with it? Why are his fences so tall? But these days the biggest question may be what will happen to his land after he dies?

It sounds insensitive to talk about, right? But there is a reason for those questions.

Turner – a media mogul, iconic business leader and philanthropist – is 85 and suffering from Lewy body dementia. The disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, is typically associated with abnormal protein deposits that can impact the brain and cause issues with thinking, movement, behavior and mood. More than one million Americans suffer from it. Most people live five to eight years after diagnosis. Turner announced that he had it five years ago.

That sad diagnosis has raised the speculation about what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of acres of land that Turner owns in the United States.

RELATED: Ted Turner explains his diagnosis in 2018 while taking “CBS Sunday Morning” on horseback across his 113,000-acre ranch near Bozeman, Montana. The interview also explores his commitment to the environment, bison and living. Watch that here. 

In 1990, Turner became chairman of the Turner Foundation, which focuses on numerous environmental and societal issues.

Turner Enterprises lists these goals for his foundation: “…improving air and water quality, developing a sustainable energy future to protect our climate, safeguarding environmental health, maintaining wildlife habitat protection, and developing practices and policies to curb population growth rates. Since its inception, the Turner Foundation has given more than $380 million to hundreds of organizations.”

The environment is also one of the four core priorities of another Turner creation, the United Nations Foundation. The other priorities include women and population, children’s health and peace/security.

Bison are another one of Turner’s priorities. The 45,000 commercial bison herd that Turner Enterprises manages is the largest in North America, according to his operation. He has 14 ranches in six states (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and South Dakota).

Ted Turner Reserves also operates four properties in New Mexico that offer a mix of activities like floating down the Rio Grande to a cross-country hike on a paleontology prospecting tour. But the enterprise describes its mission as “Connecting people with nature. As stewards of spectacular and biodiversity-rich lands, our passion is to share the transformative power of nature with guests through authentic and meaningful experiences at our unique wilderness properties. We are committed to restoring, sharing, and safeguarding America’s wild places for future generations while providing an inspiring guest experience that showcases our planet’s natural treasures.”

These are just some of the major pieces in his overall career portfolio that over the years also involved the creation of TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) that aired the games of the two professional teams that he once owned: the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team and the Atlanta Hawks National Basketball Association team; CNN, the nation’s first 24-hour cable news operation; a $1 billion donation to create the United Nations Foundation, to increase support for the United Nations; the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-partisan organization to reduce nuclear weapons; and owner of a chain of Ted’s Montana Grill restaurants that feature bison burgers.

Turner Enterprises said that Turner owns nearly two million acres of personal and ranch land, making him one of the largest individual landowners on the continent.

That includes about 400,000 acres in Nebraska. Flatwater Free Press examined Turner’s landowner history in Nebraska, which began in 1995. It credits Turner’s commitment to bison that allowed the population to soar over the years, along with his determination to make sure his nonprofit that operates on the land would continue to pay local property taxes, even though the law may not require it.


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