Who Owns the Most Land in the USA? America’s Top Landowners Revealed
With a total size of roughly 3.5 million square miles, the US is the third-largest country in the world by landmass, behind only China and Russia. Of all the land, the federal government owns more than 25%. However, a small number of affluent people and families possess a sizable amount of the property. Learn more about the biggest landowners in the USA and discover who owns the most land there by reading on.
Who Owns the Most Land in the USA?
With roughly 650 million acres (or around 28% of all US acreage), the US Government is by far the largest landowner in the nation.
In addition to national parks, monuments, military installations, and other federally owned sites, this includes substantial swaths of public property that are owned and managed by government organizations like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Native American tribes jointly hold an estimated 56 million acres (2.4% of the total US land area) and are another group of significant landowners. These lands are used for farming, ranching, forestry, mineral extraction, and recreation, among other things. The government holds these lands in trust for the tribal nations.
But which private landowners are the largest? We’ve rounded up the top 24 landowners in the USA. Estimates are based on the information given by different landowners as well as information from publications, online databases, tax records, and other sources. Only rural land holdings are included in these estimates.
Revealing America’s Biggest Landowners
In addition to the federal government, Native American tribes, and other governmental organizations, there are several individuals and private enterprises among the major landowners in the state.
These include individuals like media billionaire Ted Turner and environmentalist Stanley Kroenke, but also forestry firms like Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek. They collectively hold ownership over around 250 million acres of land or about 10% of the total US landmass.
Let’s take a look at some of America’s largest landowners, the properties they hold, and how they use them.
The patriarch of the affluent Emmerson family, Red Emmerson, is the country’s largest landowner.
More than 2.3 million acres of wooded property are owned by the family’s business, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), across California, Washington, and Oregon.
The family is investing in renewable energy sources by purchasing wind farms and biomass power plants. The company has built a reputation for using sustainable forestry techniques.
According to the company’s president, George Emmerson, the family intends to use their land for forestry and conservation while balancing economic growth and environmental stewardship.
One of the largest private landowners in the US is media tycoon John Malone. He owns 28% of Discovery Communications, 8% of the Atlanta Braves, a publicly listed team, and 25% of Liberty Global, the biggest cable provider in the world with 29 million users.
As chairman of Liberty Media Corporation, he has used his large stakes to build a media empire that includes the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the cable networks Starz and Encore.
With more than 2.2 million acres spread over thirteen states, he is also the largest private landowner in the country.
The Reed family has controlled the Green Diamond Resources Company for five generations. In eight states in the South and the Pacific Northwest, they hold 2.1 million acres of land.
The Reeds, who, like other significant landowners, are serious about sustainable forestry and conservation, harvest less than 2% of their timberland each year. They also invest in wind and solar power facilities.
Media mogul Ted Turner is the owner of 2 million acres spread over eight states. He was Time Warner’s former chairman and is most known for founding CNN. He held the title of having the most private land in the country until John Malone overtook him in 2011.
His extensive real estate holdings include ranches, farms, and hunting preserves in states like Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska.
Turner started buying land in the 1970s and now owns over 18 ranches in states like Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, and Nebraska.
He has spent a lot of time and energy protecting the environment. To aid in the protection of endangered species and their habitats, he established the Ted Turner Expeditions and Turner Endangered Animals Fund organizations.
Turner is well known for his work to boost the nation’s bison population.
One of the largest landowners in the US is real estate tycoon Stan Kroenke, who owns nearly 1.7 million acres of land scattered over seven states. Ranches, forestry, hunting preserves, and several significant developments are among Kroenke’s holdings.
Additionally, he owns a number of professional sports organizations, including the basketball franchise Denver Nuggets and the English club Arsenal.
Kroenke’s landholdings have significantly grown since 2016 when the billionaire paid an estimated $725 million for Texas’ renowned W. T. Waggoner Ranch. He grew to be one of the largest landowners in the USA, adding more than 500,000 acres to his holdings.
The Irving Family
The Irving family is one of America’s biggest landowners. The family not only controls more than 1.2 million acres of land in the United States but also 1.9 million acres of land in Canada, including a forested area in northern Maine.
The family is concerned with the environment and contributes significantly to forestry initiatives in North America. More than one billion trees, or more than 20 million trees every year, are planted by them. With a focus on lakes, wetland areas, and creatures that are threatened or endangered, conservation areas have also been established on 1.5 billion acres of land.
Dr. Peter Buck, a nuclear physicist who later opened a sandwich business, died in November 2021 with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion. He increased his land holdings by 236,000 acres in the two years prior to his passing, giving him more than a million acres of land in the US. Because Dr. Buck was very concerned about the environment, he established several nature preserves on his property to safeguard the local species and their habitats. Additionally, he donated thousands of dollars to regional conservation initiatives close to the property he owned.
Brad Kelly allegedly has 1.1 million acres of land spanning over eight states.
The majority of Kelley’s assets are located in Tennessee and Kentucky, where he has worked on numerous significant projects and accumulated a portfolio of commercial real estate. Additionally, he oversees a number of forestry and agricultural firms.
One of the largest landowners in the nation, the Singleton family controls 1.1 million acres of land between New Mexico and California.
Since 1986, when Henry Singleton, a co-founder of the titan Teledyne Technologies, bought the San Cristobal Ranch close to Santa Fe, the family has owned it.
His five children have been in charge of the family’s land holdings since his death in 1999. They sold off 10,000 acres this year.
The Singletons are dedicated to responsibly and sustainably managing their property. As a result, they have begun a number of conservation initiatives, including planting trees and safeguarding wildlife.
King Ranch Heirs
Among the largest landowners in the USA are the descendants of Captain Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis, who established the storied King Ranch in South Texas. In 2021, they were anticipated to own 912,215 acres across eight counties.
The King Ranch heirs are dedicated to preserving the environment and practicing sustainable farming practices. They have implemented conservation practices like controlling water, replanting trees, and maintaining good soil on all of their land.
The Pingree family owns 830,000 acres of land, the majority of which is dispersed over six states, including Maine.
David Pingree, a shipping tycoon who began buying land in the state more than 150 years ago, is credited with the family’s beginnings. His successors have since amassed a staggering property of around one million acres.
Today, the Pingree family owns and runs a number of forestry companies that provide products including birch, oak, and maple flooring.
Additionally, they conduct sustainable forestry, and the FSC has granted them certification due to the excellence of their tree-cutting techniques.
One of Texas’ biggest landowners, the Briscoe family, has established a reputation for themselves. They are some of the top landowners in the nation, with 686,000 acres.
The family has increased its holdings throughout the years, and in 2019 they acquired 26,000 more acres to their holdings.
They have implemented conservation practices like reforestation, water management, and “no-till” farming in order to preserve the natural beauty of their nation.
Additionally very involved in their community, the Briscoe family gives to a number of South Texas charities.
Former bricklayers Dan and Farris Wilks started working in the fracking industry in 2002. They became millionaires when they sold their natural gas extraction company for $3.5 billion in 2011.
The brothers put a lot of their money into real estate. Today, they are thought to own about 665,000 acres of land in several western states.
They have sold off around 20,000 acres in Texas and Montana in the last ten years.
The Wilks brothers are committed to preserving the natural beauty of their property. They have started a number of environmental initiatives, such as reforestation and wildlife protection projects.
They only do honest ranching, farming, and hunting, and they put a lot of emphasis on honesty in all parts of managing their property.
The Lykes family has significantly impacted the US land market for many years. In the 1870s, Dr. Howell Lykes quit being a doctor and moved to Florida to take over his family’s 500-acre ranch. Over time, he and his family grew it into one of the largest private ranches in the country.
Currently, 615,000 acres in Florida and Texas used for cattle ranching, sugar cane production, and citrus farming are in the ownership of the doctor’s heirs.
All of the Lykes family’s holdings are managed via environmental stewardship initiatives. These include reforestation, water management, wildlife protection, and soil preservation.
Additionally, they advocate crop rotation and integrated pest management as sustainable farming techniques.
The Lykes Impact Fund was started by the Lykes family in 2018 to help Florida’s conservation efforts. They are continuing the heritage of land stewardship started by Dr. Howell Lykes by giving back to their community and protecting the environment for future generations.
One of the earliest landowner families in the US was the Ford family. In 1936, Kenneth Ford, the family’s patriarch, started a small sawmill. Today, his children and grandchildren own 600,000 acres of forest land in western Oregon and northern California.
But after they sold 170,000 acres of Shasta Cascade Timberlands, their position on the Land Report list dropped significantly.
The rest of the land is used for conservation projects like restoring habitats, managing water, replanting trees, and harvesting timber in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment.
In 1979, the Ford family started the Kenneth W. Ford Foundation in Oregon to help with charitable and educational projects. This reflects the family’s dedication to giving back to the community.
Thomas O’Connor came from Ireland and moved to Texas in 1834. He was given 4,428 acres of land in Victoria County. Today, Thomas’s heirs control 587,800 acres around the state, and their wealth has increased significantly over time.
Because the family wants to take care of their land, they have started many projects, such as no-till farming, water management, and soil conservation. Additionally, South Texas strongly emphasizes environmental sustainability and charitable endeavors.
The US is the home of Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian refugee and inventor of digital investment.
Although Peterffy gained notoriety for employing computers to automate trading floors, he does not spend his entire day in front of a computer.
Peterffy made headlines in the real estate industry in 2015 when he purchased Foley Timber & Land, a vast wooded property that spans five counties in northern Florida. With 581,000 acres, it practically equals Rhode Island in size.
Six generations of Stimsons have been owners of the Stimson Lumber Company. The company has over 500,000 acres of forest land spread across Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, as well as seven lumber mills in Oregon and Idaho.
Environmental preservation is a priority for the family. Additionally, they donated a portion of their land for recreational purposes to the Pacific Northwest.
In the Deep South of the state, the Martin family is among the largest landowners.
550,000 acres of property are managed by the family, who also own RoyOMartin. They produce wood in an eco-friendly manner while also managing water resources, reforestation, and habitat restoration.
By funding educational initiatives in Louisiana, this family has additionally benefited their community through the Roy O. Martin Jr. Foundation.
In 1884, Herbert Westervelt founded The Westervelt Company. In the US, this is one of the most well-known land resource corporations.
Its descendants have been in charge of the corporation for 136 years; it spans five US states and 518,000 acres.
The company takes numerous measures to ensure that its land management is sustainable. Additionally, they back initiatives for no-till farming, soil preservation, and water management.
D. R. Horton
More than 40 years ago, Donald Horton founded D. R. Horton, the largest home builder in America. The company’s founder has amassed a sizable amount of land in the southwest of the US over the years.
In the last five years, Horton has increased his holdings by 131,195 acres. He extends an annual invitation to his staff’s young families to stay with him at Camp Horton, a ranch retreat where the next generation may learn all there is to know about ranch life. It’s unquestionably one of the more creative ways to buy land in America.
The largest private agricultural landowners are members of the Simplot family. Everything started when John Richard Simplot established his vegetable company more than 90 years ago.
The dynasty is in charge of 40 farms in Idaho and Washington, and more than 30,000 mother cows are currently dispersed over four US states. In honor of their achievements in ranch management, the US Forest Service gave them the Chief’s Honor Award in 2017.
The family of Doris Fisher and her late husband, Donald, is one of California’s biggest private landowners.
Doris and her children have been buying hundreds of thousands of acres of land in secret all over the state since the 1970s. The family has pledged to only clear 2% of their property each year as part of their sustainable forestry company.
The Fishers have also started saving resources by replanting trees, farming without tilling the soil, and fixing up wildlife habitats. They gave some of their land in the Pacific Northwest to be used for recreation.
The third-richest person in the world currently, the co-founder of Microsoft, is heavily investing in agricultural land.
According to last year’s edition of the Land Report 100, Bill Gates is regarded as the biggest private owner of farmland in the country with more than 242,000 acres spread across dozens of states. Large swaths of land in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, California, and perhaps a dozen more states are among the mogul’s holdings.
The land is held by Cascade Investments, Gates’ personal investment entity, both directly and through other parties.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the second-richest person in the world, owns a large amount of private land in the US.
Blue Origin, Bezos’ aerospace company, has purchased 420 000 acres of land in West Texas. The region serves as the company’s operating center, launchpad, and testing site. Last year, it also utilized it for its first three crewed missions.
Why Should You Invest in Land?
Land is a tangible asset with various distinct advantages. You can make money through farming or logging businesses, and it could also be used as a way to invest.
Although it might be more complicated to find cheap land for sale, now is a fantastic time to think about purchasing your own piece of land because property values are still rising and more emphasis is being placed on ethical land management techniques.
Owning land can be financially and emotionally rewarding, whether it’s for fun, as an investment, or to give to the next generation.
Discount Lots offers a fantastic chance for people to buy land for a lower cost. By cutting out the middleman and dealing directly with landowners, Discount Lots gives customers access to some of the best land on the market at prices that can’t be beaten.
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