Largest Landowner in the US

Farmland is great and studying success stories is a good habit so today we will study the largest landowners in the US!

Whether you go for real estate investments or go all-in on the more raw forms like farmland investing or land from the get-go, you’re going to reap the benefits. The big landowners own piles of the land itself so that’s what we’ll focus on today.

And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a Bill Gates or have buckets of money to invest in land or property. You can do so even with a somewhat modest budget. 

If you play your cards right, buying land could give you the financial peace of mind that we all desire. It’s generally low maintenance, yet it can appreciate over the years.

Real estate and land are both really good investment options, especially if you’re looking to diversify your portfolio for safety. This is why some of the richest people in the country have really dived in. If somebody puts quite a bit of money into something, they must be convinced about it. So, let’s unpack land ownership in the US a bit more. 

The real largest land owner 

Topping the list of the largest landowners in the US is the US Government. The government owns approximately 640 million acres of land in the US, accounting for more than a quarter of the total land in the country. It’s administered by four management agencies for preservation, recreation and development of natural resources purposes. 

The agencies are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS) and the Forest Service (FS). Additionally, the Department of Defense administers roughly 8.8 million acres for training and military bases, amongst other related things.

Top 5 largest landowners in the US 

The largest landowners in the US also play an important role in conservation, apart from the income-generating opportunities that come with land ownership. Considering the ongoing conversations on climate change and the need to be more environmentally conscious, some of the largest landowners in the US seem to be heeding the call. 

Below are the top largest landowners in the US, who have gained attention for the smart financial moves they’ve been making in land ownership. 

1 – John Malone

Widely known as a media tycoon, Malone owns 2.2 million acres of land. He is the largest private landowner in the US, boasting land in New Mexico, Colorado and Maine, amongst other areas. According to reports, he started dabbling in property more than 3 decades ago! 

The main drawcard for him were the low interest rates, meaning that with land being a long-term asset, it could be financed at a relatively lower cost 

2 – Emmerson family

Following closely behind Malone is the Emmerson family, whose land equates to a third of the size of Vermont. Their total land ownership is 2,078,032 acres. 

3 – Ted Turner

The third largest private landowner in the US is CNN founder, Ted Turner. He owns a whopping 2 million acres of land, mostly in New Mexico, South Dakota and Georgia. He bought his first ranch in 1987, which set the tone for where he is today. 

4 – Reed family

The Reed family owns 1,726,295 acres of land, which is half the size of Connecticut! 

5 – Stan Kroenke

The fifth largest private landowner in the US is a real estate mogul, so it’s no surprise that Stan Kroenke saw the benefits of land ownership long before many. He owns 1,380,000 acres of land.

Largest farmland owner in the US

The largest farmland owner in the US is none other than the man who co-founded Microsoft, Bill Gates. Yup! It seems there’s more to him than meets the eye. While cementing himself in the tech space, it appears that he was also exploring the benefits of land ownership in the background – which is why he is now at the top of the food chain.

Bill Gates owns 268,984 acres – of which 242,000 acres is farmland in various states. This is spread out across Wisconsin (1,188 acres), Florida (14,828 acres), Washington (16,097 acres) and North Carolina (874 acres). Of the 268,984 acres – apart from the farmland portion – 25,750 acres is transitional land and 1,234 acres is recreational land.

Bill Gates Farmland ownership (source)

While people are only just starting to really zoom in on Gates and his land ownership, this is something he has been involved in for years now. By 2014, Bill Gates already owned a significant amount of land, estimated at 100,000 acres across several states.

It just goes to show, and as any savvy investor will be able to tell you, you should never put all your eggs in one basket – no matter how big or potentially lucrative that basket might seem. 

Largest landowner by state 

While the prestige of being the largest private landowner in the US belongs to John Malone, several other individuals, families and entities occupy the top position in their respective states.

1 – Alabama

The McDonald family owns approximately 100,000 acres.

2 – Alaska

Doyton Limited owns an estimated 12.5 million acres.

3 – Arizona

Babbitt Ranches has 700,000 acres, of which 270,000 belongs to the family business.

4 – Arkansas

Plum Creek has previously been reported as among the largest private landowners in Arkansas, with 711,000 acres.

5 – California

A portion of Sierra Pacific Industries’ total 2 million acres is in California.

6 – Colorado

John Malone owns a total of 2.2 million acres of land, with a portion of it being in Colorado.

7 – Connecticut

Undisclosed.

8 – Delaware

Undisclosed.

9 – Florida

The Mormon Church owns 382,000 acres.

10 – Georgia

Plum Creek owns 750,000 acres.

11 – Hawaii

The State of Hawaii owns the most land, with Kamehameha Schools owning 363,000 acres.

12 – Idaho

The Holding family owns 400,000 acres, including Sun Valley Ski Resort.

13 – Illinois

Undisclosed.

14 – Indiana

Tom Kips’ Tom Farms owns a portion of its total 20,000 acres in Indiana.

15 – Iowa

Undisclosed.

16 – Kansas

Undisclosed.

17 – Kentucky

Brad Kelley owns 1.15 million acres.

18 – Louisiana

Roy O. Martin III owns 582,000 acres.

19 – Maine

J.D. Irving owns more than 1 million acres.

20 – Maryland

Undisclosed.

21 – Massachusetts

W.D. Cowls. Inc. owns 5,500 acres for conservation purposes.

22 – Michigan

Plum Creek owns 650,000 acres.

23 – Minnesota

The Molpus Woodlands Group owns 286,000 acres.

24 – Mississippi

The Molpus Woodlands Group owns 273,000 acres.

25 – Missouri

Pioneer Forest owns 150,000 acres.

26 – Montana

Farms and Dan Wilks own 358,837 acres.

27 – Nebraska

Ted Turner owns more than 500,000 acres.

28 – Nevada

Paul Fireman owns 247,500 acres.

29 – New Hampshire

John Malone owns a total of 2.2 million acres of land, with a portion of it being in New Hampshire.

30 – New Jersey

Undisclosed.

31 – New Mexico

John Malone owns a total of 2.2 million acres of land, with a portion of it being in New Mexico.

32 – New York

Columbia University owns approximately 209 properties, which collectively account to make it the largest landowner in New York.

33 – North Carolina

Tim Sweeney owns the most land in the state, mostly for conservation purposes.

34 – North Dakota

Undisclosed.

35 – Ohio

Escanaba Timber , LLC. Owns 150,000 acres of land.

36 – Oklahoma

The Drummond family owns 433,000 acres.

37 – Oregon

The Reed family owns 600,000 acres.

38 – Pennsylvania

The Collins family own the most land in this state, which was inherited from Truman Collins.

39 – Rhode Island

Undisclosed.

40 – South Carolina

Plum Creek owns 352,400 acres.

41 – South Dakota

Ted Turner owns more than 141,357 acres.

42 – Tennessee

Brad Kelley and the Wilks brothers collectively own an undisclosed amount.

43 – Texas

King Ranch, Inc. owns 911,215 acres.

44 – Utah

Box Elder County owns close to 2 million acres.

45 – Vermont

Collectively, 666,300 acres are dedicated to forestry.

46 – Virginia

Undisclosed.

47 – Washington

Weyerhaeuser Company owns 900,000 acres.

48 – West Virginia

The Heartwood Forest Land Fund owns 500,367 acres.

49 – Wisconsin

Plum Creek Timber Co. owns more than 500,000 acres.

50 – Wyoming

Philip Anschutz owns an undisclosed amount.

TL;DR – Largest Landowner in US

It’s clear to see that land ownership is a bandwagon that may just be worth jumping on, not only because of the income-generating opportunities, but also the potential to hedge against inflation. Much like with any other investment, the sooner you put your foot in, the sooner you can start capitalizing on compound interest and seeing a return on your investment.


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