Voices: Ted Turner, GYC and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Turner-bison-350x158Back when my professional life revolved around touchdown passes and 3-point baskets in the college arenas of Oregon and the Pacific-10, before there was even a glimmer of a green glint in my blue eyes, a close friend handed me a book.

The Flying D Ranch in SW Montana is one of Ted Turner’s pride and joy. More than 5,000 bison roam this wild landscape, which contains all the wildlife present during the time immediately after the Pleistocene era. Photo courtesy Todd Wilkinson.

“Read it,” he said, without explanation.

Scott had already had his epiphany, having put down his chainsaw after logging thousands of acres of old-growth timber from the rain forests of his home in western Oregon to the Tongass of Alaska. He was awaiting mine.

“Science Under Siege: The Politician’s War On Nature And Truth” by a fellow named Todd Wilkinson lit a fire in my belly that burns today — a spark that landed me on the front lines of conservation more than a decade later as communications director for GYC.

That was in the late 1990s. I read “Science Under Siege” three times while resolving debates about who should start at left tackle for Oregon State, just to keep the flame burning. Each left me more incensed than the last, and I became ever more aware of spotted owls, grizzly bears, wolves and the gradual debasing of our wild landscapes.

So it was no small privilege to move to Montana more than a decade later, help found a magazine called “Montana Quarterly”, and find my words in the same pages as one Todd Wilkinson. And then to discover, upon leaving the sports world, that Todd was the first in a long line of GYC communications directors over 30 years.

Another commonality we share: A deep, abiding respect for Ted Turner, the media magnate who has perhaps done more to prevent human tragedy and our few remaining intact ecosystems than any single person, alive or dead.

Todd’s admiration led to his writing “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet”, a thoroughly readable biography that has humanized Turner for me and is certain to alter perceptions of him in others. Notable in “Last Stand” is Turner’s affection and passion for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Yellowstone bison, and our magnificent landscapes here in the Northern Rockies.

I spent some compelling time recently conducting a Q&A with Todd about “Last Stand”. In it Todd provides insightful commentary about GYC — America’s Voice for a Greater Yellowstone” — and a certain former Board member who has helped in no small way keep the “Great” in Greater Yellowstone.

Take a few moments to catch the interview, and then read “Last Stand.” You’ll be glad you did.

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