Each winter, Land Report Magazine crunches the numbers and puts together a list of the top 100 private landowners in the United States. It offers insight into just who owns the wide open spaces between the two coasts.
The list is led by the Emerson Family, which owns 2.4 million acres, and leads the list on an empire of timber assets. Flashy names like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and even Yellowstone TV show creator Taylor Sheridan dot the list.
But a pack of landowners with deep Idaho ties also get mentions.
Dan and Faris Wilks took the 13th spot on the rundown, with land holdings that totaled 675,000 acres. The Wilks’ have worked to roll up ranch properties across the country, and their DF Development bought up lands from Boise Cascade and Potlatch, causing friction with users of the land. The Wilks’ have worked to sell several large pieces of their Idaho holdings.
The family of J.R. Simplot pulls into the 22nd spot overall, with 443,000 acres under ownership. Simplot, who died in 2008, built an empire in Idaho on potatoes, fertilizers, and innovations like frozen French fries. The family owns significant land in and around the Boise area, in addition to the JR Simplot Company, which bears the family patriarch’s name.
The Holding family, owners of the Sun Valley Resort, took the 28th spot on the list, owning 395,000 acres by Land Report’s estimation. Last year, the family sold off most of its Sinclair Oil Corporation but held on to the hospitality division, which alongside Sun Valley, includes Snowbasin in Utah and hotels and motels spread from Wyoming to San Diego.
New to the list this year is Frank VanderSloot, the CEO and co-founder of Melaleuca. VanderSloot landed 98th on the list with just over 158,000 acres. The magazine noted VanderSloot’s expanded Eastern Idaho beef processing operations.
“For decades, Frank and Belinda VanderSloot’s Riverbed Ranch in Idaho has been synonymous with high-quality Angus feedstock,” the report’s authors wrote. “Now, a new state-of-the-art processing plant expands the brand. With a capacity of 600 head a day, it opened in January 2022 and has had an immediate impact on cattle prices through the Northwest.”