- Plum Creek Timber Company ranks as the largest land owner in Montana with 765,925 acres.
- Stan Kroenke, founder and owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, is the fifth largest land owner in Montana and the United States.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns 151,840 acres of land in Montana, making it the eighth largest landowner.
Land is the most ancient asset in human history. As the world’s third-largest country by landmass, it’s understandable that folks with spare cash want a piece of the American pie. Traditionally, the world’s largest home deals have been divided among high-end neighborhoods in California, Florida, and New York City. However, Montana is swiftly becoming one of the country’s hottest real estate sites, reflecting the inclination for country life with the surge of remote work amid the pandemic.
Montana is the fourth-largest state in the United States, hosting more cattle than people. Montana’s boundless beauty draws some of the world’s wealthiest investors and landowners, earning it legendary nicknames such as the Big Sky State and the Treasure State. The only question is, who are the biggest landowners in Montana? In this article, you will meet Montana’s 10 largest landowners.
10 Largest Land Owners in Montana
10. John Hillenbrand – 118,417 acres
John W. Hillenbrand works as a sole proprietor in the Dual-Purpose Cattle Ranching and Farming industry in Jordan, Montana. His industry consists mostly of enterprises that raise cattle for milking and meat processing. Dual-purpose cattle systems (DPS) are those in which milk and meat are generated at the same time, cows are partly milked, and the excess milk is ingested by the calves; feeding is mostly dependent on grazing and productivity (meat or milk per unit area or per cow) is lesser than in systems directed solely toward the production of milk or beef.
9. Ted Turner – 148,870 acres
Robert Edward Turner III, better known as Ted Turner, is an American businessman, television producer, media mogul, and philanthropist. Turner is the second-largest individual landowner in the United States, with around 2 million acres spread across 12 states. In Montana, Turner holds the Flying D Ranch in the state’s southwestern corner, which spans the northern portion of the Spanish Peaks, stretching from the Gallatin to Madison rivers. Turner also owns the Snowcrest Ranch in Dillon and the Maudlow Bar None.
8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – 151,840 acres
The LDS Church and its followers in Montana are recognized as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and are among Montana’s largest landowners. The church’s first congregation in the state was established in 1895 and has since expanded to 50,552 members in 126 churches. The Mormon Church is Montana’s second-largest denomination, after only the Roman Catholic Church.
7. Great Northern Properties – 153,056 acres
Great Northern Properties (GNP) was founded in 1992 to obtain the coal-related assets of Burlington Railroad. GNP is privately held by Rett and Charlee Parker. The Montana properties are shared by Natural Resource Partners (NRP) and contributed around 14% of NRP’s reserves in 2001. According to the US National Mining Association, GNP is the largest private owner of coal reserves in the United States, with approximately 20 billion short tons of reserves, second only to the United States government in terms of holdings size.
6. The Coffee Family – 212,633 acres
This massive piece of land belongs to Clyde Merwyn Coffee, Jr. and his wife, Virginia Nefsy. Clyde Merwyn Coffee, in addition to ranching, was a director and shareholder of Miles City Bank, which subsequently became Stockman Bank of Montana. As the bank grew, Coffee made certain that the bank’s focus remained on the consumer. For more than 50 years, he gave insight into agriculture, producers, and markets.
5. Robert Earl Holding – 213,462 acres
Robert Earl Holding was a businessman in the United States who owned Sinclair Oil, Grand America Hotels, the Westgate Hotel, and two ski resorts: Sun Valley in Central Idaho and Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah. The Holding family controls 400,000 acres of land in Utah and Idaho, as well as a massive cattle ranch in southern Montana and northern Wyoming.
4. Stan Kroenke – 225,162 acres
Stan Kroenke, who married Walmart heiress Ann Walton in 1974, is better recognized for his professional sports career than his private land involvement. Stan is the founder and owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which holds the Denver Nuggets (NBA), Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), and Arsenal FC of the Premier League, as well as a variety of smaller franchises. According to the most current land report, Stan is the fifth-largest land owner in the United States as of 2021. His Montana properties comprise Broken O Ranch around Augusta, PV Ranch nearby Hysham, and Cedar Creek Ranch just around Ennis.
3. The Galt Family – 248,023 acres
These holdings date back to the early to mid-1900s, when Wellington Rankin was Montana’s largest private land owner, with over 1 million deeded and leased acres of property and 27,000 cows at the peak of his operation. Wellington was married to Louise Rankin, who inherited the estate after Wellington died in 1966. A year later, Rankin married Jack Galt, a notable ranch manager at the time. This property has been passed down within the Galt family and is still owned by members of the Galt family today. Martinsdale’s Montana holdings include 71 Ranch and several ranches in and around Broadwater and Rosebud counties.
2. Farris and Dan Wilks – 358,837 acres
Farris and Dan Wilks, popularly known as the Wilks Brothers based in Texas, established their place in the hydraulic fracking industry. The Wilks brothers sold the majority stake in their company, Frac Tech, for $3.5 billion in 2011. Since then, the brothers have amassed vast tracts of land, primarily in Central Idaho and Montana. The Wilks Brothers are the twelfth-largest landowners in the United States, according to the 2020 Land Report 100. Montana holdings include the N-Bar Ranch near Lewistown and ranches and properties in Bighorn, Garfield, Meagher, and Blaine counties.
1. Plum Creek Timber – 765,925 acres
Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. was a timberland owner and manager, in addition to forest products, mineral extraction, and property development firms, until it merged with Weyerhaeuser Company. Established in 1989, Plum Creek Timber inherited nearly 47 million acres of the Burlington Northern Railroad’s land holdings, which were initially handed to the Northern Pacific Railway by the US government in the mid-1800s. Plum Creek Timber was recently acquired by Washington-based Weyerhaeuser in 2015, resulting in the largest private ownership of forestland in the United States. The Montana assets comprise several ranches and private plots located throughout Northwest Montana.
Summary of the 10 Largest Landowners in Montana
Here’s a review of the top 10 largest landowners in the great state of Montana.
|1||Plum Creek Timber||765,925 acres|
|2||Farris and Dan Wilks||358,837 acres|
|3||The Galt Family||248,023 acres|
|4||Stan Kroenke||225,162 acres|
|5||Robert Earl Holding||213,462 acres|
|6||The Coffee Family||212,633 acres|
|7||Great Northern Properties||153,056 acres|
|8||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints||151,840 acres|
|9||Ted Turner||148,870 acres|
|10||John Hillenbrand||118,417 acres|
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- Great Falls Tribune, Available here: https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/money/2016/06/21/who-owns-montana-top-10-landowners/86179936/
- Hart Real Estate, Available here: https://www.hartres.com/blog/top-landowners-in-montana/
- Knoff Group Real Estate, Available here: https://knoffgroup.com/top-five-largest-land-owners-in-montana/
- World Population Review, Available here: https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/largest-landowners-by-state