FACE OF AN ECONOMY: U.S.: Land: This Land is Not Your Land, This Land is My Land

A Journal of People report

By landmass, the U.S. is the third largest country in the world. It spans over 3.5 million square miles – a huge landmass. In size, the U.S. trails behind China and Russia.

The federal government owns over a quarter of all land in the U.S. However, a vast chunk of this landmass is owned by just a handful of individuals and families.

On the basis of The Land Report magazine’s 2018 Land Report, the 50 largest private landholders in the U.S. as mentioned in this report own a huge mass of land.

These 50 individuals and families own over 31 million acres – or about 1.4% of the U.S.’s total landmass. [640 acres is equal to one square mile.] This ranking was current as of the end of 2018.

The estimates are based on information from published reports, online databases, tax records, and information provided by various landowners, and includes only rural land holdings.

This list only includes privately held land. Nearly all of it serves some commercial purpose, from farming and ranching to logging and renewable energy production.

Not only do the private land holdings on this list often generate income for their owners, but also real estate itself is a valuable commodity. Not surprisingly, many of the people on this list rank among the wealthiest Americans.

  1. Hadley family
  • Land area: 260,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Hong Kong.

The Hadley family, Anheuser-Busch heirs, own 260,000 acres, including the massive Diamond A Ranch, which makes up a substantial part of New Mexico’s southwestern tip.

  1. Lyda family
  • Land area: 260,035 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of San Antonio.

The Lydas are Texas cattle ranchers and landowners. Their properties include the massive La Escalera ranch in far West Texas.

  1. Galt family
  • Land area: 262,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to 2,500 times the size of Vatican City.

The Galts are a family of cattle ranchers with a number of large properties in Montana, including the Martinsdale Ranch. Errol Galt is the former Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Game commissioner.

  1. Anne Marion
  • Land area: 275,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Detroit.

Anne Marion owns several major properties in Texas, including the famous 6666, or “Four Sixes” cattle ranch in the Southern Panhandle, which is close to 150 years old.

  1. Lee family
  • Land area: 275,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Chicago.

The Lee Family owns an estimated 275,000 acres in New Mexico. The Lees are sheep and cattle ranchers who owe some of their wealth to the discovery of uranium and coal on their property in the western half of the state.

  1. Babbitt heirs
  • Land area: 275,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to Eighty times the size of Los Angeles International Airport.

The Babbitts are long-time Arizona cattle ranchers who have been in the area since 1886. They own several large ranches in the northern part of the state.

  1. Killam family
  • Land area: 277,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to one quarter the size of Grand Canyon National Park.

The Killam family deals largely in cattle and oil, with ranches in Texas and Oregon and oil operations in Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas.

  1. Kokernot heirs
  • Land area: 278,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Detroit.

The Kokernot family’s 06 Ranch brand registered in Texas since 1837. Both the Family’s 06 Ranch and Leoncita Cattle Company Ranch are in West Texas.

  1. Fasken family
  • Land area: 279,128 acres
  • Roughly equal to ten and a half times the size of Hilton Head Island, SC.

David Fasken, a Canadian, bought a ranch in West Texas in 1913. The discovery of oil on that ranch propelled Fasken to wealth, and now Fasken Oil & Ranch is a major oil drilling company that has heavily employed fracking technology. The Faskens have several major properties in West Texas.

  1. Collier family
  • Land area: 280,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to one-tenth the size of Puerto Rico.

Baron Collier was an advertising executive who developed land and infrastructure in southern Florida. Collier was the largest landholder in the state at the time of his death. Today, his family owns some 280,000 acres, primarily in Collier County, which is named after him.

  1. Bass family
  • Land area: 285,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to one-tenth the size of Connecticut.

The Bass family fortune, like those held by many of the entries on this list, comes from oil and cattle ranching. Ed Bass helped build the brand-new $540 million Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, which opened in late October 2019. The family also owns San Jose Island on the Texas Gulf Coast.

  1. Barta family
  • Land area: 286,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to one-fifth the size of Delaware.

The Barta family, which owes its wealth to its prescription services company, Sav-Rx, now owns one of the largest cattle ranching operations in Nebraska. The family owns numerous properties throughout the northern and eastern part of the state.

  1. Llano Partners
  • Land area: 295,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three and a half times the size of Philadelphia.

Under the livestock feeding company Llano Partners Ltd., Hughes Abell owns and operates ranching operations in New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. Abell currently serves as the vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, a trade group with membership exceeding 15,000 in Texas and Oklahoma alone.

  1. Mike Smith
  • Land area: 295,980 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Guam.

Mike Smith owns nearly 300,000 acres, which are primarily spread throughout eastern Texas. His properties include the 11,830 Broseco Ranch, which contains two lakes that are 100 acres in size.

  1. Robinson & Freed families
  • Land area: 300,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Los Angeles.

Collectively, the Robinson and Freed families own 300,000 acres in partnership. Their land is primarily made of up six cattle ranches in Utah.

  1. Shannon Kizer
  • Land area: 302,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Phoenix, Arizona.

Shannon Kizer has 302,000 acres across five states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Shannon’s farming and ranching operations produce peanuts, corn, wheat, dairy, and cattle.

  1. Collins family
  • Land area: 311,395 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Chicago.

The late Truman Collins was a lumberman who became the largest private landholder in Pennsylvania before his death in 1914. Today, his living family members own over 311,000 acres of land in northern California and western Pennsylvania.

  1. Stefan Soloviev
  • Land area: 325,077 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of the Hawaiin Island of Molokai.

Though he resides in New York City, Stefan Soloviev owns over 325,000 acres of land across New Mexico, Kansas, and Texas. Much of the land is used to grow crops like wheat, corn, and sorghum.

  1. Malone Mitchell 3rd
  • Land area: 336,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of the Hawaiian Island of Kaua’i.

Malone Mitchell runs Longfellow Ranches, a 500 square mile hunting preserve located in West Texas.

  1. Zane & Tanya Kiehne
  • Land area: 345,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Singapore.

Zane and Tanya Kiehne own ranches that span seven counties in New Mexico and seven counties in Texas and consists mostly of mountainous terrain that is home to a variety of wildlife. Both Zane and Tanya were born into ranching families.

  1. Hughes family
  • Land area: 390,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to half the size of Yosemite National Park.

Dan Hughes, patriarch of the Hughes family, was a wildcatter in Texas. Together, his family owns 390,000 acres.

  1. Holding family
  • Land area: 395,030 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Oklahoma City.

The wife and children of the late Robert Earl Holding, who bought Sinclair Oil Corp. for $78 million in 1976, own nearly 400,000 acres. Their land includes the 190,000 acre Sunlight Ranch in Montana, just outside of Yellowstone National Park.

  1. Jeff Bezos
  • Land area: 420,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Guam.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is not only one of the richest men in the world, but he is also one of the biggest private landowners in the U.S. Bezos owns 420,000 acres, much of which is in west Texas.

  1. Philip Anschutz
  • Land area: 434,500 acres
  • Roughly equal to one-quarter the size of Delaware.

Philip Anschutz owns 434,500 acres of land in Wyoming and Colorado. Plans for his land in Wyoming include a massive wind farm that will rank among the largest in the world.

  1. Fisher family
  • Land area: 440,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to ten times the size of Washington, D.C.

The Fisher family owns 440,000 acres of land, primarily timberland in northwestern California. Donald and Doris Fisher co-founded the clothing brand Gap Inc.

  1. Simplot family
  • Land area: 443,091 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of the island of Maui.

Jack Simplot was a potato farmer who forged a deal with the former CEO of McDonald’s to supply the restaurant chain with French fries. Today, the Simplot family oversees a $2.5 billion farming operation and owns over 443,000 acres, largely in southern Idaho.

  1. McDonald family
  • Land area: 474,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Dallas.

The McDonald family’s 474,000 acres are spread across Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma – but the majority of the family’s land holdings is in Maine. Their land is used for a range of resource extraction industries, including timber, sand and gravel, and oil.

  1. D.R. Horton
  • Land area: 503,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to two-thirds the size of Yosemite National Park.

D.R. Horton owns over half a million acres of land. His holdings include the 292,779-acre Great Western Ranch in New Mexico and Camp Horton, a ranch near Fort Stockton, Texas, where he hosts a children’s summer camp.

  1. Westervelt heirs
  • Land area: 518,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to half the size of Rhode Island.

Herbert Westervelt started a paper company in the late 1800s. The company, now known as Westervelt Company, has operations in renewable energy, lumber, and wildlife services. Westervelt’s heirs own over half a million acres across Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia.

  1. Holland Ware
  • Land area: 534,900 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Badlands National Park.

Holland Ware owns over half a million acres of land primarily in Florida and Georgia. Ware has transferred much of his holdings to the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation, which supports a number of causes, including animal welfare.

  1. Stimson family
  • Land area: 552,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to one-third the size of Delaware.

Founded by Thomas Douglas Stimson, the Stimson Lumber Company, which today operates out of the Pacific Northwest, has remained in the family for six generations. Today, the Stimson family owns 552,000 acres, primarily in Montana and Oregon.

  1. Martin family
  • Land area: 570,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to six-and-a-half times larger than Detroit.

The Martin family, owners of the nearly 100 year old RoyOMartin Lumber Company, have over half a million acre of land, largely in Louisiana.

  1. Ford family
  • Land area: 580,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to two-and-a-half times larger than Indianapolis.

The descendants of the late Kenneth Ford own 580,000 acres primarily in Oregon. Ford made a career in the timber business during the Great Depression.

  1. Thomas Peterffy
  • Land area: 581,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of San Antonio, Texas.

Thomas Peterffy arrived in the United States as a refugee from Hungary in 1965. Peterffy made a fortune as a successful investor and innovator on Wall Street. He became one of the largest landowners in the United States when he purchased 561,000 acres of land in northern Florida for $700 million in 2015.

  1. O’Connor heirs
  • Land area: 587,800 acres
  • Roughly equal to seven times the size of Philadelphia.

Heirs of the late Thomas O’Connor, who immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the 1800s, own over half a million acres, including the O’Connor Ranch in south Texas. The family patriarch owned half a million acres in Texas, and the family fortune grew considerably when his son discovered oil on family land.

  1. Hamer family
  • Land area: 600,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Luxembourg.

The Hamer family owns some 600,000 acres of land, largely forest in West Virginia. The family has harvested hardwood timber from the land for five generations.

  1. Lykes heirs
  • Land area: 615,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of New York City.

The Lykes heirs own in Florida a 337,000-acre ranch, which includes sugar cane and cattle operations, as well as a 264,555-acre ranch in west Texas. The owners of the land are heirs to the late Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes, who left a career in medicine to raise cattle and crow citrus.

  1. Briscoe heirs
  • Land area: 640,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Dallas.

The combined landholdings of former Texas governor, the late Dolph Briscoe Jr., heirs total 640,000 acres. Their holdings include the 100,000-acre Catarina Ranch in south Texas.

  1. Wilks Brothers
  • Land area: 702,367 acres
  • Roughly equal to five times the size of Chicago.

Brothers Farris and Dan Wilks launched Frac Tech, a natural gas extraction company in 2002, and sold it for $3.5 billion in 2011. Since then, they have been acquiring land. The largest landowners in both Montana and Idaho, the Wilks brothers also own ranches in Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.

  1. Pingree heirs
  • Land area: 830,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to two and a half times the size of Phoenix.

David Pingree, known as the Merchant Prince of Salem, built an empire that exceeded 1 million acres in the 1800s. Today, between his fifth, sixth, and seventh generation of descendants, Pingree’s heirs own some 830,000 acres mostly in Maine through Seven Islands Land Co., a lumber company.

  1. King Ranch heirs
  • Land area: 911,215 acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Los Angeles.

The King Ranch heirs own a four-parcel ranch in southern Texas that spreads across 825,000 acres, making it the largest ranch in the state. The ranch spawned from land that was originally purchased by Captain Richard King in 1853 and subsequently passed down through generations.

  1. Peter Buck
  • Land area: 925,000 acres
  • Roughly equal to three-quarters of Grand Canyon National Park.

Peter Buck made his fortune as a founding partner of the Subway restaurant franchise. Buck is the owner of Tall Timber Trust, one of the largest owners of timberland in Maine. All told, Buck owns 925,000 acres.

  1. Singleton family
  • Land area: 1.1 million acres
  • Roughly equal to three times the size of Houston.

The Singleton family owns a number of ranches, mostly in New Mexico. The family’s 1.1 million acres of land also includes land in California.

  1. Brad Kelley
  • Land area: 1.2 million acres
  • Roughly equal to twice the size of Jacksonville, FL.

Brad Kelley’s investment group purchased the 762-acre Calumet Farm, a thoroughbred horse breeding and training facility in Kentucky, in 2012. Today, much of Kelley’s 1.2 million acres are located in Kentucky.

  1. Irving family
  • Land area: 1.2 million acres
  • Roughly equal to as large as Anchorage, AK.

The Irving family is the sixth largest private landholder in the United States. In addition to the 1.2 million acres the family owns, primarily in Maine, the Irvings also own some 1.9 million acres in Canada. The family businesses include lumber, newspapers, and petrochemicals.

  1. Stan Kroenke
  • Land area: 1.4 million acres
  • Roughly equal to the size of Prince Edward Island.

Real estate mogul and owner of the Los Angeles Rams, Stan Kroenke, owns 1.4 million acres of land in the United States, including a 124,000-acre ranch in Montana and additional land in Wyoming. Kroenke is married to Ann Walkton Kroenke, an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune.

  1. Reed family
  • Land area: 1.7 million acres
  • Roughly equal to half the size of Connecticut.

For five generations, the Reed Family has owned and operated the logging company Green Diamond Resource Co. The family’s 1.7 million acres of land are primarily spread across Washington, Oregon, and California.

  1. Emmerson family
  • Land area: 2.0 million acres
  • Roughly equal to a third of the size of New Hampshire.

The Emmerson family owns and operates Sierra Pacific Industries, a company that logs usable lumber after forest fires and sells it to lumber retailers. Through Sierra Pacific, the family owns some 2 million acres in California and Washington.

  1. Ted Turner
  • Land area: 2.0 million acres
  • Roughly equal to twice as large as Rhode Island.

CNN founder Ted Turner owns 2 million acres of land largely in New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Georgia. Much of Turner’s land is used as grazing land for over 50,000 head of buffalo – the largest private herd of bison in the world.

  1. John Malone
  • Land area: 2.2 million acres
  • Roughly equal to half the size of Lake Ontario.

John Malone is the largest private landowner in the United States. Malone made his fortune as a media tycoon, building the company Tele-Communications, Inc, or TCI, and acting as its CEO before selling it to AT&T for $50 billion in 1999. Malone’s 2.2 million acres are largely located in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming and include profitable cattle ranches.

Who owns the most land in the U.S.?

A Bloomberg report on September 6, 2019 said: The 100 largest private landowners in the U.S. own 40 million acres — an area the size of Florida.

The report by Dave Merrill, Devon Pendleton, Sophie Alexander, Jeremy C.F. Lin and Andre Tartar said:

Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest person, amassed the 420,000 acres over two decades to become the 26th-largest private landholder in the U.S.

“He’s in rich company with a relatively new kind of landed gentry — billionaires including John Malone and Ted Turner — and with families whose ancestors purchased their parts of America generations ago. The 100 largest owners of private property in the U.S., newcomers and old-timers together, have 40 million acres, or approximately 2% of the country’s land mass, according to data from the Land Report and reporting by Bloomberg News. Ten years ago, the top 100 had fewer than 30 million acres.

“It may not seem like much — all told, just about the size of Florida. But land is an often-overlooked repository of wealth, one of those quiet assets, such as artworks or trusts that make up so much of the country’s unexamined riches as inequality widens.”

The report said:

“The top 100 private landowners have property in 39 states for any number of purposes — investment, conservation, tax benefits or just the bragging rights that come with owning big pieces of America.

As sources and methodology of the work, the report said:

“The identities of the 100 largest private landowners and their respective acreage, per state where available, were provided by the Land Report from its most recent Land Report 100 ranking. This annual survey, which is compiled by the publication’s research team, is based on information secured from landowners and their representatives, published reports, offering memoranda, industry experts and online databases, including tax records.

“From this list, Bloomberg compiled more than 1,000 names of people and corporate entities associated with the top 100 landowners. These names were then used to identify parcels controlled by the individuals and families (and any affiliated entities) on the Land Report’s list.

“Bloomberg obtained parcel data, principally geographic boundaries and mapping files, directly from counties, as well as from third-party providers that extract county-level data.

“A primary source was Pitney Bowes’s Property Attributes Parcels Plus data, which the company filtered to find holdings registered to individual and business names on Bloomberg’s relevant entity list. The isolated property records were then joined to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Boundaries data. Once a match was found for the state and name, the record was added to a final data table. Bloomberg then uploaded the resulting data into QGIS for geometry verification and mapping.

“Additional parcels were identified by Bloomberg directly using county websites and AcreValue Plus data. While the list of landowners is based on 2018 holdings, as defined and compiled by the Land Report, the parcels mapped by Bloomberg were those owned by or registered to the aforementioned affiliated entities during the reporting and research phase in early to mid-2019.

“Where county tax records show more than one owner of a parcel from the Land Report’s list, the parcel was divided proportionally if specific acreage was provided. Where no proportional acreage was provided, the parcels were divided evenly or in some cases left blank.

“Where digital GIS mapping data was unavailable from counties, Bloomberg relied on additional published sources including environmental studies, court documents, real estate listings and property maps available on family or company websites.

“Any acreage included in the Land Report ranking but found to be leased, according to Bloomberg reporting or the landowners themselves, was not mapped.

“Alaska and Hawaii were excluded. The Land Report data lists just two properties in those states: a 12-acre resort northwest of Anchorage owned by Louis Bacon and 2,700 acres of agricultural land in Kauai owned by Brad Kelley.

“Bloomberg attempted to contact every individual or family represented in this analysis to confirm the total acreage by state attributed to them. In all, 92 members of the list were contacted and 51 responded before publication. Of those, four had no comment — the Simplot, Holding, Reynolds and Hunt families — while two disputed the acreage estimates from the Land Report without providing alternative figures — Llano Partners and the JA Ranch heirs. An additional family, the Brophys, responded after publication to dispute owning a controlling stake in the Aztec Land & Cattle Company, Ltd. land displayed in Arizona, but did not provide details for verification.

“Bloomberg’s final 40 million-acre estimate for the top 100 private landowners is less than the 41.5 million-acre total calculated from the Land Report data because of updated acreage figures received from or fact-checked by the landowners. Relative rankings mentioned in the story are based on Bloomberg’s updated figures. The 2008 acreage figure used for comparison is from the Land Report.

“In the course of Bloomberg’s reporting, the Hamer family, who own sawmill operations in West Virginia and are included in the Land Report’s 2018 ranking, clarified that they have no substantial land holdings of their own but instead rely on other private landowners to supply timber. In consultation with the Land Report, the Broadbent ranching family was substituted for the Hamer family for the purposes of this story.

“Ultimately, 35 million acres were identified and mapped using the above steps, representing 87% of the 40 million-acre total. The 5 million acres that Bloomberg was unable to map were largely due to difficulties accessing county records still in paper form.”

The reports provide a picture of private land property in the U.S. The private land property is an important issue to people, especially the poor, and the working class.

On a question related to land, Lenin wrote:

“Our Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party of the Bolsheviks, has proposed in a carefully worded resolution that property in the land be vested in the people as a whole. Consequently, we are opposed to any seizure of land as private property. (“On the “Unauthorised Seizure” of Land, Flimsy arguments of the Socialist Revolutionaries, Lenin Collected Works, Volume 24, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, USSR)

In today’s capitalist countries, and in exploitative system, the land property is an important issue, which demands serious study.

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