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ADVENTURE: Why open up Vermejo now?

TED TURNER: I’ve always believed that taking care of the ecology of a place can pay economic dividends. I want people to see what we’re doing here, to inspire them to do the same.

A: What’s special about Vermejo?

TT: Its beauty and diversity. You can stand alone on 13,000-foot summits in the Sangre de Cristos and look down all the way to the prairie. You might run into bison, elk, bears, mountain lions, or prairie dogs. The federal government is considering it for national park status.

A: How’d this ranch become synonymous with bison?

TT: The property came with a small population of bison, called the Castle Rock herd, descendants of animals transplanted from Yellowstone in the 1950s. When we had them DNA tested, they turned out to be one of only three genetically pure bison herds left that survived the slaughter of 40 million in the 1800s. We now have a herd of 50,000—the world’s largest.

A: The ecotours will pass through an area on the ranch being aggressively developed for coal bed methane gas. How did that happen?

TT: I didn’t own the drilling rights when I bought the ranch, so I couldn’t stop energy development even if I wanted to. But when the El Paso Corp. came forward and said they wanted to extract the gas, they knew I was an environmentalist. So we worked together on an agreement that has been held up as a model for how to sensitively develop coal seam deposits along the Rocky Mountain Front. Most visitors can’t tell there’s a major gas field being tapped underfoot.

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