Ted Turner, the billionaire media mogul, has recently purchased more land in the Great Plains. With over 2 million acres, he is the largest private landowner in the U.S. His recent acquisitions have made people question his intentions.
The Turner Foundation has generously donated millions to various environmental groups over the years. Recently his foundation has been in negotiations with the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union. The objective seems to be the conservation of bison. According to the Associated Press, Turner “owns land in at least nine states, with most of his holdings in New Mexico, Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota, and is restoring buffalo, cutthroat trout, wolves, black-footed ferrets and other flora and fauna that filled the Plains before the West was won.”
Although Turner hasn’t committed on his plans, others have speculated on his motivations. Is it conservation or greed? Is he trying to make money by snapping up all the land he can lay his hands? Does he intend to hand the land over to the U.S. government and create a wildlife refuge?
Conspiracy theories abound.
He is scheming, perhaps with the United Nations, to create a vast wildlife refuge and turn it over to the federal government, removing the land from Nebraska’s tax rolls. That could hurt Nebraska schools and other services, which are already starved for cash.
Local farmers and ranchers that cannot compete with Turner for land are justified in being concerned. They probably resent the billionaire’s presence.
But what about environmentalists? Should they care if Turner’s primary motivation is profit? After all, Turner’s land provides a haven for many of the species we care about.
It doesn’t appear that he plans to develop the land for commercial use. This land will not be littered with Wal-marts, McDonald’s, and big block stores anytime soon. A lot of people who care about the environment would try to preserve as much land as they could, if they had the money. We don’t have the money. He does.