In the experience of most people, what is a large amount of land to be owned by a single person? Large farms and ranches come to mind. Many people have heard of the King Ranch in Texas, which covers 845,000 acres, or about the size of Rhode Island. However, it does not match the amount of land owned by America’s largest landowner.
If the nation’s private land was divided amongst the current population of the United States, each person would own about 4.19 acres. Of course, not everyone has the money or desire to invest in rural landholdings. While over 44 million households rent (rather than own) their homes, other individuals, families and heirs own hundreds of thousands of acres.
To determine the largest landowner in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from The Land Report magazine’s 2021 Land Report 100. The report’s estimates are based on information from other published reports, online databases, tax records and information provided by various landowners, and they include only rural landholdings. Ownership must be deeded, not leased, but note that some of these landowners also lease significant tracts of pastureland from the federal government.
Many of the largest holdings are ranch or timberland in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Accordingly, many of the large landowners own property in the ranching or forestry business, while some are also oil company owners or media or entertainment moguls. Almost no land in the Midwest or Northeast belongs to America’s major landowners, with the notable exception of forests in northern Maine.
The largest landholders in America are the Emmerson Family, owners of the California-based lumber company Sierra Pacific Industries. In 2021, they acquired 175,000 acres in Oregon from Seneca Jones Timber, which raised the family’s holdings to 2.33 million acres. Number two on the list is Liberty Media Chair John Malone, who owns 2.2 million acres of ranch and timber holdings, while third is the Reed family, who own a Washington-based forest products company with land holdings in California, Oregon and Washington.
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