Trailing just Russia and Canada, the United States is the third-largest country in the world by landmass, covering nearly 2.3 billion acres. The largest overall landowner in the country is the U.S. government, with different departments (the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense and others) controlling different parts of federal land. While state governments also own much land, there are also private landowners who own hundreds of thousands of acres of land across the country. A handful own over 1 million acres each.
To determine the largest landowners in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from The Land Report magazine’s 2019 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 include only rural landholdings.
All told, the 50 individuals, families and heirs on the list own nearly 31 million acres, or about 1.4% of the country’s total landmass. From among these, 24/7 Wall St. picked the largest landowner in the country. For reference, one square mile is equal to 640 acres.
The property owned by the nation’s largest landowners tend to cluster in certain areas, particularly the southwest and west. The southern and western parts of Texas, as well as New Mexico, are popular among ranchers. Large swaths of California, Wyoming and Montana are used by owners to raise livestock, farm, ranch and produce timber. Almost no land in the Midwest or northeast belongs to America’s major landowners, with the notable exception of the northern part of Maine.
Many of the people and families on the list we used to pick the largest landowner are ranchers or oil company owners and are not household names. Yet a handful, like Jeff Bezos and Ted Turner, are prominent billionaires who bought huge tracts of land either for a business venture or for their own private use.
John Malone, the largest landowner in America, owns 2.2 million acres, which is about half the size of Lake Ontario. Malone made his fortune as a media tycoon, building the company Tele-Communications and acting as its chief executive officer, before selling it to AT&T for $50 billion in 1999. Malone’s 2.2 million acres are located largely in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming and include profitable cattle ranches.