Meet the 10 Largest Land Owners in Montana

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: November 18, 2023
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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 and Treasure State. The only question is, who are the biggest landowners in Montana? In this article, you will meet Montana’s 10 largest landowners.

A beautiful landscape of the Hyalite reservoir in Montana

Montana has become a popular state for investors and landowners due to its beauty and vastness.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

10 Largest Land Owners in Montana

10. Ted Turner – 148,870 acres

Ted Turner

Ted Turner is the second-largest individual landowner in the United States.

©INTX: The Internet & Television Expo/ CC BY 2.0 – License

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.

9. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – 151,840 acres

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns 151,840 acres of land in Montana.

©Sopotnicki/Shutterstock.com

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.

8. Great Northern Properties – 153,056 acres

coal

GNP is the largest private owner of coal reserves in the United States.

©Monika Gruszewicz/Shutterstock.com

Great Northern Properties (GNP) was founded in 1992 to obtain the coal-related assets of Burlington Railroad. Rett and Charlee Parker privately hold GNP. 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.

7. The Coffee Family – 212,633 acres

Miles City, Montana

Miles City, Montana, is the home of Miles City Bank, later Stockman Bank of Montana.

©Larry D. Moore / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

This massive piece of land belongs to Clyde Merwyn Coffee, Jr. and his wife, Virginia Nefsy. In addition to ranching, Clyde Merwyn Coffee 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 over 50 years, he gave insight into agriculture, producers, and markets.

6. Southern Pine Plantation – 213,000 acres

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Plum Creek Timber inherited nearly 47 million acres of the Burlington Northern Railroad’s land holdings.

©Emily Kerns/Shutterstock.com

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 comprised several ranches and private plots located throughout Northwest Montana.

In 2020, Weyerhaeuser Company sold 630,000 of its Montana acreage to Southern Pine Plantations, a company based in Macon, Georgia, that purchases and sells timberlands. Whether or not the land purchased by Southern Pine Plantations is being sold in bundles is unknown. What is known is that the former largest landowner in Montana, Plum Creek Timer/Weyerhaeuser, is no longer the largest landowner in that state.

5. Robert Earl Holding – 213,462 acres

This businessman is the owner of Grand America Hotels.

©Hänsel und Gretel / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

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

According to the most current land report, Stan Kroenke is the fifth-largest land owner in the United States as of 2021.

©Fox Sports / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

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 near Hysham, and Cedar Creek Ranch just around Ennis.

3. The Galt Family – 248,023 acres

Broadwater County, Montana

View of land in Broadwater County, Montana.

©Montanabw / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

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. Green Diamond – 291,000 acres

Larch forest in autumn

The company will likely maintain the annual timber harvest at around 7 million to 10 million board feet. 

©PhilAugustavo/iStock via Getty Images

In 2021, Southern Pine Plantation sold 291,000 acres to Washington state-based Green Diamond. According to Montana Public Radio, this was a great concern to residents who have enjoyed public access to the land over the years. While Green Diamond plans to utilize a portion of the land for public use, much of it will be used for timber harvest.

1. Farris and Dan Wilks – 358,837 acres

Big Spring Creek, near Lewistown, Montana

Big Spring Creek near Lewistown, Montana.

©Mike Cline / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

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.

Summary of the 10+ Largest Landowners in Montana

Here’s a review of the top 10+ largest landowners in the great state of Montana.

RankLandownerAcreage
1Farris and Dan Wilks358,837 acres
2Green Diamond291,000 acres
3The Galt Family248,023 acres
4Stan Kroenke225,162 acres
5Robert Earl Holding213,462 acres
6Southern Pine Plantation213,000 acres
7The Coffee Family212,633 acres
8Great Northern Properties153,056 acres
9The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints151,840 acres
10Ted Turner148,870 acres
11Robyn and Mark Jones126,000 acres
12John Hillenbrand118,417 acres

Who Are the Largest Landowners in the United States?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The Federal Government comes out on top of U.S. land ownership, owning 640 million acres of land nationwide.

©Mendenhall Olga/Shutterstock.com

There are two worth mentioning relating to the largest landowners in the United States. The first is probably pretty obvious: the U.S. government. Shared between the National Park Service,  the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense, the Federal Government owns over 640 million acres of U.S. land. That’s roughly ⅓ of all the land in the United States. This averages out to a total of 2.3 billion acres.

The Emmerson family is the largest landowner in the United States besides the Federal Government. Their patriarch, Red Emmerson, founded Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, California. This company focuses on lumber production while operating several sawmills. The Emmerson family owns approximately 2,330,000 acres of land.

The other top largest landowners in the U.S. are:

  • John Malone–2,200,000 acres (land committed to conservation)
  • The Reed Family–2,100,000 acres (lumber production and forests)
  • Ted Turner–2,000,000 acres (ranching and agricultural research)
  • Stan Kroenke–1,627,500 acres (farmland, ranches, renewable energy)

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Tashka


Sources

  1. Great Falls Tribune, Available here: https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/money/2016/06/21/who-owns-montana-top-10-landowners/86179936/
  2. Hart Real Estate, Available here: https://www.hartres.com/blog/top-landowners-in-montana/
  3. Knoff Group Real Estate, Available here: https://knoffgroup.com/top-five-largest-land-owners-in-montana/
  4. World Population Review, Available here: https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/largest-landowners-by-state
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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