Meet the 6 Largest Landowners in Colorado

Written by Crystal
Updated: November 20, 2023
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Are you curious to know who the top landowners in Colorado are? From Ted Turner to the federal government, this article will reveal exactly how many acres these entities own and why it matters for residents and wildlife. We’ll also look at some of the most prominent land trusts that play a role in land conservation!

Read on to discover the largest landowners throughout Colorado.

1. Private Rangelands — 24.5 Million Acres

Missouri Lakes Colorado

One of the private rangelands in Colorado provides 2 million acres for public hunting and fishing.

©Captain Colorado/Shutterstock.com

Colorado is home to an incredible 66 million acres of land, and 24.5 million are private rangelands. The grounds provide resources for over 36,000 farmers and ranchers.

Many private landowners partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in research initiatives and programs. Thanks to their generous contributions, experts continue to study everything from mountain lions to elk populations so future generations can still appreciate the beauty of nature in this great state.

Out of all the private rangelands, two million acres are available for public hunting and fishing. It may seem strange to allow hunting while also promoting conservation. But it’s all part of a bigger picture. Hunting can help stabilize specific wildlife populations.

2. Federal Government — 24.1 Million Acres

Lake of Glass - A panoramic view of clear and colorful Lake of Glass surrounded by rugged high peaks of Continental Divide on a sunny Summer day. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA.

The US federal government owns 24.1 million acres of land in Colorado, including Rocky Mountain National Park.

©iStock.com/SeanXu

Did you know that the federal government owns nearly a third of Colorado? That’s 24.1 million acres in total. The Bureau of Land Management is in charge of 39.7% of the land, and the Forest Service controls 31.4%. The Fish and Wildlife Service manages 14.5%, while the National Park Service works 13%. And the Department of Defense is responsible for 1.4%.

One of the federal government’s most important jobs is providing public spaces. The type of spaces where residents and tourists can enjoy the outdoors and participate in recreational activities like hiking and camping.

If you’re visiting Colorado, bring your hiking boots. There are 415 square miles of wilderness to explore at the Rocky Mountain National Park. And don’t forget to check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde.

3. Land Trusts — 3.4 Million Acres

The top landowners in Colorado are the federal government, private rangelands, the state land board, and land trusts.

©iStock.com/krblokhin

Land trusts in Colorado have helped preserve more than 3.4 million acres across the state. The success of their land conservation efforts is mainly due to partnerships with landowners, local governments, and nonprofits.

These organizations help ensure that Colorado’s land remains in its natural, undeveloped state for future generations. Take, for instance, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. They’re all about conserving Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes to benefit future generations. They’ve protected 672,123 total acres – 250 acres owned and 671,633 acres under easement.

There’s also the South Plains Land Trust, which protects more than 25,000 acres of shortgrass prairie ecosystems. They help preserve biodiversity, and their preserves can even offset our carbon footprint! The grasslands they protect can store carbon, which is good news for the Earth’s climate.

4. Colorado State Land Board — 2.8 Million Acres

St. Vrain State Park Colorado

The Colorado State Land Board manages 2.8 million surface acres and 4.0 million mineral estate acres.

©iStock.com/Steven Milligan

The Colorado State Land Board is a crucial part of the state. They manage 2.8 million surface acres and 4.0 million mineral estate acres. The organization’s main goals are to take care of these places and to make money to help support public schools and other public institutions. All revenue from the State Land Board is used to fund its operations, ensuring no tax dollars are spent.

5. Ted Turner — 550,000 Acres

Ted Turner owns 550,000 acres in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, which features over 1,200 bison.

©Tim Malek/Shutterstock.com

Ted Turner, the media giant, is one of Colorado’s most important land stewards. He owns Vermejo Park Ranch. The property covers an impressive 550,000 acres in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. The ranch encompasses four different mountain ranges and features over 1,200 bison! Turner even runs a guest ranch operation on his property. Visitors can stay overnight, go on guided hunts, fish in stocked ponds and enjoy some of the best views in Colorado.

6. John Malone — 270,000 Acres

Farmland Near Maybell in Colorado

Farmland along the Yampa River, near Maybell, Colorado.

©vagabond54/Shutterstock.com

Another one of the top landowners in Colorado is John Malone. He owns a whopping 270,000 acres and resides there with his family. But that’s not all. Malone owns nearly two million acres of land throughout the United States – almost double the size of Rhode Island!

Malone’s Colorado property is spread across four counties and includes several ranches, resorts, and even an airstrip. One of the most popular and successful operations is Silver Spur Ranches. There’s also the Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Florida. With such a wide range of properties spanning various states, it’s no surprise that Malone has established himself as a leader in the industry.

Final Thoughts on Landowners in Colorado

There you have it! The top landowners in Colorado are the federal government, private rangelands, the state land board, and land trusts. Major names like Ted Turner and John Malone come in for the last two spots.

It’s fascinating what the landowners choose to do with the spaces, like Malone’s massive ranching operations or Turner’s guest experiences. Then, there are the conservation projects that numerous private landowners and land trusts are working to make a reality.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a landowner to enjoy what Colorado offers! Just put on your hiking boots and get ready to explore. There are plenty of fun trails and photo-worthy spots. Check out the articles below to get the full scoop on Colorado’s best national parks.

Summary of the 6 Largest Landowners in Colorado

RankLandownerAcreage
1Private Rangelands24.5 million acres
2Federal Government24.1 million acres
3Land Trusts3.4 million acres
4Colorado State Land Board2.8 million acres
5Ted Turner550,000 acres
6John Malone270,000 acres

Who Are the Largest Landowners in the United States?

Mount Rushmore, The United States

The Federal Government owns 640 million acres of U.S. lands, making it the largest landowner in the United States.

©iStock.com/Patrick Jennings

There are two worth mentioning as 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, over 640 million acres of U.S. land are owned by the Federal Government. That’s roughly ⅓ of all the land in the United States, which averages out to a total of 2.3 billion acres.

The largest landowner in the United States other than the Federal Government is the Emmerson family, whose patriarch Red Emmerson founded Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, California. This company is focused on lumber production, operating a number of 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 © Ann Cantelow/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Colorado Land Trusts, Available here: http://www.coloradolandcan.org/state-resources/Land-Trusts/1
  2. Uncover Colorado, Available here: https://www.uncovercolorado.com/national-lands/
  3. Colorado State Forest Service, Available here: https://csfs.colostate.edu/colorado-forests/colorado-land-ownership/
  4. Christopher Ingraham, Available here: https://www.denverpost.com/2017/12/21/john-malone-stan-kroenke-land-barons/