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If you picture the state of Montana as rolling hills for cattle grazing and gorgeous wide-open spaces with mountain views, you’ve got it just about right.
It is a sparsely populated state, to be sure. A total of 45 of its 55 counties are considered frontier land, where there are around 6 people per square mile. This is unprecedented for the fourth largest state in the nation.
Cattle ranching has brought about a thriving income for the state since the early 1800s. More than 25,000 farm and land operations take up 60% of land in this large US state.
Along with cattle, you will find a wide range of wildlife, some of which you will hope not to come across, such as grizzly bears and bison; others that would make great photos for Instagram, like pelicans, golden eagles and moose.
The state’s money-making businesses are mining and agriculture. Montana’s largest landowners have figured this out, as most are involved in one of these two endeavors.
Of course, as with any US state, not all land is privately owned. State and federal governments own nearly 35% of the State of Montana.
Here is a list of the top 9 landowners in Montana:
1. Plum Creek Timber
This company owns 770,000 acres of timberland all across northwestern Montana.
2. Farris And Daniel Wilks
Two family members that own 360,000 acres.
Formerly living in Texas, they made their fortune by fracking and masonry. They are owners of several Montana properties including the N Bar Ranch near Lewistown, which is the largest ranch in all of the state.
3. The Galt Family
This family has 248,000 acres passed down to family members of Jack Galt, a well-known ranch manager.
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4. Robert Earl Holding Company
Company with 213,400 acres that made its fortune in the Sinclair Oil Corp, based in Utah.
Holding owns the Sunlight Ranch and is the CEO of Sinclair Oil. He also owns Sun Valley and Snow Basin ski resorts.
5. The Coffee Family
Family who own 212,600 acres of land for the Coffee Cattle Company.
The company’s headquarters are outside Miles City, and they have other properties in Custer and Rosebud counties. Interestingly, they are descendants of Montana rodeo hall of fame honoree CM Coffee.
6. Great Northern Properties
This group weighs in at 154,000 acres.
This resource investing company has coal ventures in southeast Montana in the Bull Mountains.
7. The Church Of The Latter Day Saints
Church that own 151,850 acres that includes trail creek land and livestock on Winnecook Ranch near Harlowtown.
8. Ted Turner
This well-known media mogul owns 148,800 acres in Montana including the Flying D Ranch in Bozeman, Snowcrest Ranch near Dillon, and Bar None Ranch near Belgrade.
Turner is the 2nd largest landowner in the US, with about 12 million acres under his ownership.
9. Jordan Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand has 118,400 aces east of Jordan, aptly named the Hillenbrand Ranch.
As you can see, the largest landowners take advantage of Montana’s natural resources. The uninhabited frontier land is the perfect setting for grazing cattle, and there are abundant sources for mining for gold, silver, lead and precious gems.
The billionaires know that farmland is an outstanding investment that will only add to their wealth.