Ted Turner work­ing to save en­vi­ron­ment

Bil­lion­aire work­ing on pop­u­la­tion, nu­clear weapons is­sues too

The Covington News - - Agriculture & outdoors - By Josh Funk The As­so­ci­ated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Man­ag­ing 2 mil­lion acres of ranch­land and run­ning a restau­rant chain serve as diver­sions for bil­lion­aire Ted Turner.

Th­ese days the 69- yearold who founded At­lantabased CNN spends most of his time try­ing to solve the world’s prob­lems by work­ing with his three foun­da­tions to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, sta­bi­lize the world’s pop­u­la­tion and stop the spread of nu­clear weapons.

“ That’s a pretty big agenda, don’t you think?” Turner said from a ta­ble in his restau­rant in Omaha Thurs­day.

Turner vis­ited Omaha to re­name his 4- year- old restau­rant as Ted’s Ne­braska Grill, but Turner dis­cussed a num­ber of top­ics in an in­ter­view. The Omaha restau­rant is the only one of the 54 in the chain that is not called Ted’s Mon­tana Grill.

The Omaha restau­rant will fea­ture beef from Omaha Steaks and bi­son from Turner’s own herd, and when­ever pos­si­ble the restau­rant will use other items from Ne­braska com­pa­nies.

If the name change suc­ceeds, Turner said he may change the name of some of the other Ted’s restau­rants.

Turner said he feels like he has made some progress on the prob­lems that he has in­vested $ 1.5 bil­lion of his own for­tune in solv­ing, but more could be done.

“ The more the press cov­ers th­ese sto­ries, the more peo­ple be­come aware of it, and the more ac­tion’s taken,” Turner said.

The re­cent cov­er­age of global warm­ing that be­gan with Al Gore’s doc­u­men­tary “An In­con­ve­nient Truth” has been en­cour­ag­ing, Turner said, but he wishes the me­dia would pay more at­ten­tion to that topic and to nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion con­cerns.

“ The nu­clear sit­u­a­tion is very, very com­plex,” he said. “And the me­dia, un­for­tu­nately, I don’t think are cov­er­ing it nearly as promi­nently as they should.”

Turner said he hopes re­porters will ask the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates more about what they would do to stop the spread of nu­clear weapons now that there are fewer can­di­dates.

The risks of what could hap­pen if ter­ror­ists ob­tained a nu­clear bomb are sim­ply too great to ig­nore, Turner said.

“ If a bomb goes off, there will be mil­lions killed,” he said. “ The World Trade Cen­ter thing would look like a stroll in the park.”

Turner said he thinks any one of the top three pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates — Repub­li­can John McCain and Democrats Hil­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama — would bring wel­come change to the na­tion’s poli­cies on global warm­ing. Turner said he hasn’t picked a fa­vorite can­di­date yet.

“ We need to elect the best per­son this time,” he said. “ Be­cause on global warm­ing and the nu­clear is­sues we’re run­ning out of time. We need to take ac­tion.”

Turner said he doesn’t have any se­cret plans for the 2 mil­lion acres of land he owns in 11 states and Ar­gentina.

“ I’m run­ning 50,000 bi­son. I needed the land to ex­pand the bi­son herd,” Turner said. “ That’s re­ally the rea­son I bought so much land.”

So, Turner said his neigh­bors should quit wor­ry­ing that he might be try­ing to cor­ner the land over the Ogal­lala Aquifer or that he might turn the land into a huge tax- ex­empt wildlife refuge.

Turner said nei­ther of those are in his plans. But he did say the land will even­tu­ally go to the Turner Foun­da­tion af­ter his death, and it won’t be de­vel­oped.

Own­ing the land has been good to Turner be­cause it be­cause it helped pro­tect his for­tune.

“ I thought land was a pretty good value, and it was a chance to di­ver­sify my in­vest­ment,” Turner said. “ Thank God I did too be­cause AOL- Time Warner went down 80 per­cent, which I had the bulk of my in­vest­ment in. But the land went up in value.”

Turner said he doesn’t plan to make any more large pur­chases of land, but he may buy some prop­erty that ad­joins his ranches if he can get a good price.

Turner’s big­gest land hold­ings are in New Mex­ico, Ne­braska, Mon­tana and South Dakota.

Turner has en­cour­aged prairie dogs to flour­ish on his land, rein­tro­duced swift foxes and cut­throat trout, and he is work­ing on a plan to help re­store the en­dan­gered black- footed fer­ret to the prairie.

His restau­rants, which fea­ture bi­son meat, also re­flect Turner’s en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns by us­ing biodegrad­able hand soap, com­pact flu­o­res­cent light bulbs, to- go cups made from corn starch and other mea­sures.

“ I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to do the right thing if you can af­ford to do it,” Turner said. “And even if you can’t af­ford to do it, it’s still prob­a­bly best to do the right thing if you can fig­ure out a way to do it. That’s what we’re try­ing to do.

“ We work a lit­tle harder to try and be bet­ter cit­i­zens.”

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