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Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet

Author: Todd Wilkinson

Reviewed by Karsten Heuer, Y2Y President

Last StandWhat would you do with a million dollars? How about billions? Would your kind-hearted intentions to save the planet and rid the world of nuclear arms hold true if you could suddenly buy anything under the sun?

Those were the questions in my head as I read Last Stand, Todd Wilkinson’s new book about media mogul and self-made billionaire Ted Turner. Unlike past biographers, Wilkinson (who had unprecedented access to Turner) emphasizes the man’s philanthropy more than his business savvy (Turner created CNN), and skimps on the gossipy details of Turner’s life in order to examine his deep relationship with the land itself. And so he should; Turner, through a multitude of strategic land acquisitions (being the second largest private landholder in North America), programs to save threatened and endangered species, and support for United Nations’ work to rid the world of nuclear arms, could very well be the largest one-man force of nature on Earth.   

It is fortunate, then, that one of Turner’s showcase properties, the 113,000-acre Flying D Ranch outside of Bozeman, Montana, sits at a critical juncture in the Yellowstone to Yukon region, at the northern end of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where the High Divide linkage zone to the Salmon-Selway and Crown of the Continent ecosystems begins.

Home to mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, wolf, moose, pronghorn antelope, black bear, mountain lions, badgers and cutthroat trout, Turner immediately recognized its value when he bought it and began tearing down many of the fences and replacing the cattle with bison. Several years later grizzlies returned, along with a denning pack of wolves, moving the hard-nosed tycoon to tears. But not at the expense of a profit. Indeed, if evidence of a working landscape fitting into the Y2Y mission to protect and connect habitat is what you’re looking for, the Flying D comes in somewhere near the top of the list.  

All of which to say Last Stand is a book worth reading, an inspirational story of a successful capitalist who, unlike most business leaders today, sees the value of wild land not for what can be taken out of it, but for what he can leave and give back.

This book is available through amazon.com.