Who Owns the Most Land in the United States?


The United States consists of more than 3.7 million square miles of land. From Utqiagvik in Alaska all the way down to Key West in Florida, land in the U.S. takes many different forms. There are residential real estate areas, commercial real estate areas, farmland, parks, and much more. Some private landowners own a large amount of land in order to operate timberland and ranches to provide resources like lumber and food.

The Madison Trust team looked at data from The Land Report 100 (an annual ranking of land ownership) to determine who owns the most land in the U.S.

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Who Is the Largest Landowner in the U.S.?

The largest landowners in the United States are the Emmerson family, with 2,330,000 acres of land. Red Emmerson, the patriarch of the family, founded Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, CA. They are one of the largest producers of lumber in the country and operate a number of sawmills.
Second on the list is John Malone with 2,200,000 acres of land. This billionaire businessman and philanthropist was the CEO of Tele-Communications Inc. for 24 years and is now the chairman of Liberty Media, which has ownership stakes in in Formula One, SiriusXM, and the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Malone’s land is committed to conservation.
The third on the list of largest U.S. landowners is the Reed family. In 1897, Mark Edward Reed was hired to manage the Simpson Logging Company, and he later assumed control of the company after marrying Sol Simpson’s daughter. The 2,100,000 acres of land are used to produce lumber, and tens of thousands of acres are used as working forests to help support the community.
The fourth largest landowner in the United States is Ted Turner. Turner (who founded television channels TNT, TBS, and CNN) has an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion and owns 2 million acres of land in the United States. The land is primarily used for ranching and agricultural research.
Number five on the list is Stan Kroenke, with 1,627,500 acres of land. Kroenke is a businessman and owns many different sports teams, including the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Arsenal F.C., and Colorado Avalanche. His property includes farmland and ranches with hundreds of horses and thousands of cattle. The land is also used for renewable energy — Danish company Ørsted uses land on Kroenke’s property to produce sustainable energy.

Where Is the Largest Ranch in the U.S.?

The largest U.S. ranch is King Ranch in Kingsville, TX. The ranch is 825,000 acres and is larger than the country of Luxembourg. It belongs to the King family, who come in tenth on the list of largest landowners in the United States. Robert King, a river pilot, first visited the land that would later become King Ranch in 1852. Since 1999, Ford Motor Company has produced King Ranch versions of some of their most popular vehicles, including the Ford F-150, Expedition, and Explorer.

What Land Is Commonly Used For

A majority of land owned by private landowners on the list is used to produce and mill lumber. These properties use forests to create lumber and paper products. Ranches are also a very popular use of land. These ranches, typically in the south and west of the United States, are used to raise cattle, horses, and a variety of other livestock.

How Much Land Does the U.S. Federal Government Own?

Who owns the most land in the U.S.? While not private landowners, the U.S. federal government owns about 640 million acres of land, which is 28% of the land in the country. Out of all of the states, Nevada has the highest percentage of federally owned land. The federal government owns more than 80% of the state’s 70,264,320 acres of land. The majority of the federal land is owned by the National Park Service. In Nevada, there are more than 300 national historic sites and multiple national parks. Death Valley National Park encompasses parts of both California and Nevada. It’s known as both the hottest and driest area of North America.

The Largest Private Landowners in the United States

Person/Family Used For Acres Owned Locations Notes
1 Emmerson Family Timberland 2,330,000 California, Oregon, Washington Red Emmerson's company Sierra Pacific Industries is the largest private lumber production firm in the United States. They own 14 different sawmills across the country.
2 John Malone Conservation 2,200,000 Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming The Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation is committed to conserving land for the communities that use it to live, work, and play.
3 Reed Family Timberland 2,100,000 California, Oregon, Washington Mark Edward Reed was hired in 1897 to manage the Simpson Logging Company. Reed married Sol Simpson's daughter in 1901. After Simpson died in 1906, Reed assumed control of Simpson Logging.
4 Ted Turner Ranchland and agriculture 2,000,000 Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota Each of the Turner ranches operates as a working business, supported by bison, hunting, fishing, and tourism.
5 Stan Kroenke Ranchland and renewable energy 1,627,500 Texas, Montana Kroenke owns the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), and Arsenal F.C. (Premier League). Waggoner Ranch (the largest ranch in Texas) includes 30,000 acres of farmland, several creeks, more than 1,000 productive oil wells, hundreds of horses, and thousands of cattle.
6 Irving Family Timberland and conservation 1,267,792 Maine The family is the single largest landowner in Maine. They have also planted more than 1 billion trees in the U.S. and Canada.
7 Buck Family Timberland 1,236,000 Maine The family of Peter Buck (co-founder of Subway restaurants) owns timberland in Maine.
8 Brad Kelley Ranchland 1,139,984 Texas, New Mexico Kelley founded the Commonwealth Brands tobacco company in 1991, and approximately 10,000 elk roam his ranch properties.
9 Singleton Family Ranchland 1,110,000 California, New Mexico The Singleton Ranches are on more than a million acres in New Mexico and California. The ranches are home to one of the largest cattle operations in the world.
10 King Family Ranchland and agriculture 911,215 Texas The heirs of Robert King own King Ranch, which consists of ranches in Texas and California that earn income from ranching, hunting, farming, and oil operations.
11 Pingree Heirs Timberland 830,000 Maine, New Hampshire The Pingree family owns much of the Mount Washington property in New Hampshire as well as the Maine-based timberlands company Seven Islands Land Company.
12 Briscoe Family Ranchland 686,000 Texas Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. (1923-2010) was the largest landowner in Texas. The family's ranches continue to house thousands of cattle.
13 Wilks Brothers Ranchland 675,000 Texas, Idaho, Montana Dan and Farris Wilks made their money through fracking. They sold their shares of Frac Tech and started buying ranches.
14 Lykes Heirs Ranchland and agriculture 615,000 Florida, Texas The ranches in Texas are known for their cattle, while the land in Florida is renowned for its citrus groves.
15 Ford Family Timberland 600,000 California, Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia Roseburg Forest Products includes sawmills, engineered wood plants, plywood plants, woodchipping, and more.
16 O'Connor Heirs Ranchland 587,800 Texas The O'Connor Ranch is one of the longest-running cattle ranches in Texas history.
17 Thomas Peterffy Timberland, ranchland, recreation, and real estate development 581,000 Florida, Georgia A section of the properties includes acres dedicated to residential, commercial, and industrial development as well as recreational and agricultural land.
18 Stimson Family Timberland 552,000 Idaho, Oregon, Montana Stimson Lumber Company is one of America's oldest continuously operating wood products companies and has remained in the family for six generations.
19 Martin Family Timberland 550,000 Louisiana Roy O. Martin founded RoyOMartin in 1923, and to this day, the company owns three of the largest wood panel plants in North America.
20 Westervelt Heirs Timberland 518,000 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina Herbert Westervelt founded Prairie States Paper Company and patented a machine that made flat-bottomed paper shopping bags.
21 Don Horton Ranchland and real estate development 507,410 Nationwide D.R. Horton has been the country's largest homebuilder by volume since 2002.
22 Simplot Family Agriculture 443,091 Idaho J.R. Simplot founder Jack Simplot created the first frozen French fries and later became the exclusive supplier of potatoes to McDonald's.
23 Fisher Family Timberland 440,000 California In addition to their tinder holdings, the Mendocino Redwood Company and Humboldt Redwood Company also work on protecting the habitat on their properties.
24 Jeff Bezos Aerospace 420,000 Texas Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased land in west Texas in order to launch rockets as part of his Blue Origin spaceflight program.
25 Zane and Tanya Kiehne Ranchland 400,000 New Mexico, Texas The Kiehnes are some of the largest landowners in southwest Texas and eastern New Mexico.

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