The old maxim is to think global, act local — but Ted Turner is thinking and acting on both levels.
The U.N. Foundation, which he set into motion 15 years ago, deals with worldwide concerns such as health, women’s rights and the environment. And the exec is putting his eco-concerns into practice at his Flying D ranch, just outside of Bozeman, Mont.
Sitting on the porch of his wooded ranch house, he points to the rolling green lands. “There were farms with farmhouses; I took all the fences down,” he says. “The place was developed, and we un-developed it. But it took 20 years to do.”
He’s proud that the 113,000-acre ranch is home to every predatory animal that was in the area “when Lewis & Clark were around,” including bears, wolves, wolverines and coyotes. The residents also include eagles, geese, deer and trout.
But he seems most proud of the bison, rearranging his schedule to personally drive visitors out to see a herd. When he bought the ranch, there were 4,000. Now, there are 56,000, and one-fifth are targeted for the menu in his Ted’s Montana Grill restaurants.
Back on the porch, he pauses as the geese in a nearby pond raise a racket. “We’re living out here with nature. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass,” he laughs. “But we love it.”
“You know, I started the only private endangered-species fund in the world,” he adds. “It’s headquartered here in Bozeman. We’re working on 20 different species.” (And no, none of those is targeted for the restaurants.)
Turner’s mind zips around at lightning speed, switching subjects as he interrupts his own interruptions. He can talk about military spending, soil erosion, women’s rights and TV journalism, and then suddenly looks at the headline “Grizzlies in decline” in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and exclaims, “I can’t take it anymore! It’s breaking my heart!” And then he resumes his thoughts exactly where he left off.
The house seems roomy but not huge, with a feeling of intimacy due to all the wood interiors and to personal touches like a bison silhouette on the door. He suddenly asks, “How many lights do you see on in the house?”
“That’s right.” He had wondered whether to do the early-morning interview indoors, but decided, “I don’t want to be turning on lights in the middle of the day. I’m trying to do the right thing, all the time. How many cans and bottles did you see on the road coming in?”
“That’s a public road. But when I see a (discarded) bottle, I stop and pick it up.”
He adds, “I think it’s important that we save the environment and save people. We can do it, if we start doing everything right. We’ve got to stop doing the dumb things and start doing the smart things. You can’t do too much good. You can do too much evil. But you can’t do too much good.”