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Who Are the Top Landowners in Montana?

Home to more cattle than people, Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States. Topped in surface area by only Alaska, Texas, and California, Montana boasts some of the most incredible destinations in all of America, including Big Sky Resort, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, just to name a few. The Rocky Mountain Range spans the western third of Montana, in addition to over one hundred other named ranges scattered throughout the state! Much of the remaining part of the state is technically part of the Great Plains region, and therefore boasts some of America’s largest ranches. Holding iconic nicknames such as the Big Sky State and the Treasure State, Montana’s expansive beauty attracts some of the world’s wealthiest investors and landowners. The only question is this: who are the biggest landowners in Montana?

  1.  Plum Creek Timber: 765,925 acres
    • Plum Creek Timber is a timberland owner & manager. Founded in 1989, Plum Creek Timber inherited over 47 million acres of the Burlington Northern Railroad’s land holdings, originally given to the Northern Pacific Railway by the US Government in the mid 1800’s. Plum Creek Timber was recently acquired by Washington-based Weyerhaeuser in 2015 resulted in the largest private ownership of timberland in the United States.[1] Montana holdings include numerous ranches and private parcels across Northwest Montana.[2]

  2.  Farris and Dan Wilks: 358,837 acres
    • Based in Texas and better known as the Wilks Brothers, Farris and Dan made their way in the Hydraulic Fracking industry. In 2011, the Wilks brothers sold the majority interest in their company Frac Tech for $3.5 billion. Since then, the brothers have accumulated massive quantities of land predominately in Central Idaho and Montana.[3] According to the 2020 Land Report Top 100, the Wilks Brothers are the United States’ twelfth-largest landowner. Montana holdings include N-Bar Ranch near Lewistown as well as several ranches and properties scattered throughout Bighorn, Garfield, Meagher, and Blaine counties.[2]

  3.  The Galt Family: 248,023 acres
    • The origin of these holdings dates back to the early to mid 1900’s, when Wellington Rankin was the largest private landowner in Montana, “with more than 1 million deeded and leased acres of land and 27,000 cattle at his operation’s peak.”[4] Wellington was married to Louise Rankin, who assumed ownership of the estate after Wellington passed away in 1966. One year later, Rankin married Jack Galt, a prominent ranch manager at the time. This land has been passed down and is still owned by members of the Galt Family. Montana holdings include 71 Ranch by Martinsdale as well as several ranches in and around Broadwater County and Rosebud County.[2]

  4.  Stan Kroenke: 225,162 acres
    • Married to Walmart heiress Ann Walton in 1974, Stan Kroenke is better known for his business in professional sports than his interest in private land. Stan is the owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which is the holding company for the Denver Nuggets (NBA), the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), the Colorado Rapids (MLS), the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), and Arsenal F.C. of the Premier League, as well as several other smaller franchises.[5] Based on the rankings in the most recent Land Report Top 100, Stan ranks as the United States’ fifth-largest landowner in 2020. His Montana holdings include Broken O Ranch near Augusta, Cedar Creek Ranch near Ennis, and PV Ranch near Hysham.[2]

  5.  Robert Earl Holding. 213,462 acres
    • Robert Earl Holding (1926-2013) was an American businessman who owned Sinclair Oil, Grand America Hotels, the Westgate Hotel, as well as two ski resorts: Sun Valley in Central Idaho as well as Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah. Montana holdings include Sunlight Ranch near Billings as well as ranches and properties near Wyola County and Carbon County.[2]

*All land holding figures provided are estimates based on external data and should be treated as such. All other facts and figures retrieved on December 21, 2021. For informative purposes only. All Rights Reserved.

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