Friday, October 21, 2011

America's Biggest Land Owners

#1 John Malone. Owns: 2.2 million acres in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Maine and New Hampshire. The cable-television billionaire was outed as one of the nation's largest property owners by The Land Report two years ago and dramatically increased his holdings last year with the purchase of New Mexico's 453-square-mile Bell Ranch. Now he passes longtime No. 1 Ted Turner with the purchase of 1 million acres of timberland in New Hampshire and Maine from an investment firm.

#2 Ted Turner.  Owns: 2 million acres in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Florida and several other states. An ardent conservationist, Turner began buying ranches in the 1970s and revived the nation's bison herd to 55,000 head on his ranches across the upper Great Plains. No regrets about losing the title as the nation's No. 1 land baron to John Malone: "I consider John a good friend and have great respect for him," Turner said.

#3 Archie "Red" Emmerson. Owns: 1.87 million acres in California and Washington. #3 Archie "Red" EmmersonIn 1949 Emmerson and his father, Curly, leased a sawmill and built the business into Sierra Pacific Industries. Red borrowed $460 million to buy 522,000 acres in California, a position since increased to almost 2 million acres.

#4 Brad Kelley. Owns: 1.7 million acres in Texas, New Mexico and Florida. This Nashville, Tenn., farmer's son sold his Commonwealth Brands cigarette company for $1 billion in 2001 and began investing in land. Big time. The Land Report estimates the tightlipped Kelley owns 1.7 million acres. Most recently he's reported to have bulked up his holdings with ranchland in the Big Bend region of Texas.

#5 Irving family. Own: 1.2 million acres in Maine. Pictured: Arthur Irving.These Canadian descendants of a Scottish sawmill operator are secretive and all business. They've amassed roughly a 20th of the state of Maine and will plant 28 million seedlings this year to keep the timber coming.

#6 Singleton family. Own: 1.11 million acres in New Mexico. Henry Singleton was a brilliant engineer who co-founded Teledyne and began buying land in New Mexico in the mid-1980s. Now his heirs run the massive Singleton Ranches, headquartered in Santa Fe, one of the nation's biggest cattle and horse-breeding operations.

#7 King Ranch Heirs. Own: 911,215 acres in Texas and Florida. Henry King ran away from the drudgery of indentured servitude in New York to make his fortune as a steamboat captain. But his fame comes from the massive King Ranch, which he assembled in the 1800s. It sprawls across four counties, including ranching, hunting, farming and oil and gas operations.

#8 Pingree heirs. Own: 830,000 acres in Maine. The Pingree family, now into its seventh generation of timber management, is descended from a Massachusetts shipowner who decided to diversify into land in the 1800s. Pingrees are still actively cutting on their Maine properties, but in 2001 they sold a conservation easement to 762,000 acres to the New England Forestry Foundation for $28 million, or $37 an acre, to prevent any future development.

#9 Reed family. Own: 770,000 acres in Washington. Sol Simpson was a Canadian lumber raftman who immigrated to Nevada to find gold but made his fortune in Washington timber. Descendents of Simpson and Mark Reed, an early manager who married into the family, still run Simpson Investment Co., a diversified lumber-products company that owns hundreds of thousands of acres of timberland to help supply its raw materials.

#10 Stan Kroenke. Owns: 740,000 acres in Montana and Wyoming. Husband of Wal-Mart heiress Anne Walton, Kroenke has added to his growing sports franchise (St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, England's Arsenal soccer team) by assembling ranchland in Montana and Wyoming. Kroenke's, Q Creek Ranch, at 570,000 acres, is the largest contiguous ranch in the Rocky Mountains.


AAEA would be willing to speculate that two to three of these individuals owns more land than all African Americans combined.

Between 1865 and 1915, African Americans purchased 15 million acres of land, most of it in the rural south.

Today black farmers own less than 2 million acres. (Lawyer's Committee, African American Land Loss)

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