"Two million acres is about 2,500 square miles ... and if I owned a property a mile wide, it would stretch from New York to San Francisco. I could cut the United States in half and I could charge a toll for people passing over my land from north to south and really make a fortune without a whole lot of work. But I don't think it would be feasible and it certainly wouldn't be popular and I decided long ago not to do that. But I did think about it."
It wouldn't have been the first time Turner did something unpopular. The strong-spirited, outspoken billionaire who created CNN, TBS and other groundbreaking television programming has seen more than a few controversies during his career, most stemming from insensitive, off-the-cuff remarks about religion and ethnicity.
'Mouth of the South'
In 2001, he made one of his most well-known verbal snafus, when, at a meeting with CNN staff members on Ash Wednesday, he referred to those with ash on their foreheads as "Jesus Freaks." According to The New York Times, Turner went on to say "Shouldn't you guys be working for Fox?"
Such comments ultimately earned him the nicknames "The Mouth of the South" and "Captain Outrageous."
Turner is still outspoken, but at nearly 72, he's mellowed a bit. His last notable controversial comment of record involved global warming, a pet issue for Turner. In 2008, he said on the Charlie Rose television program that if steps aren't taken soon to address global warming, we'd all be dead or eating each other by mid-century.
"We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow," Turner said during the wide-ranging, hour-long interview with PBS's Rose.
"Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," Turner, then 69, said. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable."
Today, almost all of his public comments concern global warming, conservation, renewable energy and making the world a better place to live — things he says he's thought about since childhood.
"Nature and conservation go hand in hand," Turner said from his Atlanta offices. "If you like or love nature, you've gotta love conservation. Even when I was 10 years old, I could see development threatened the natural world.
"And as I read about animals and birds, I learned about the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the Labrador duck and other species in North America, particularly the bison," he continued. "I started thinking, gee, if there was something I could do to help bring back the buffalo, I'd sure like to do it."
Today, he's been able to use his land and money to make those childhood dreams a reality.