Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

28 February 2009

Several Texans On List of America's 100 Largest Landowners

One of my favorite publications, The Land Report, recently published its list of the nation's largest landowners. The magazine calls its list "the most comprehensive list of the nation’s landowning elite." I could hardly disagree.

It was no surprise that Ted Turner topped the list. With total land holdings of more than 2,000,000 (yes two million) acres, Turner has amassed an impressive, dare I say awesome, catalogue of exquisite ranches, in Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico. His Ranch holdings include the Bar None (23,000 acres) and Flying D (119,000 acres) in Montana, Vermejo Park in New Mexico(600,000+ acres bought from Penzoil), The Snowcrest, and even a property in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Despite the divergence in our politics, I am in awe of the conservation, wildlife and stewardship efforts of Ted Turner. He has consistently granted conservation easments, engaged in extensive habitat restoration and even mass fence removal. He owns a 45,000 head herd of bison, and has re-introduced several wildlife species to properties. Turner is serious about wildlife preservation and restoration, and frequently puts is money where is heart is. For this we lovers of great, wide-open spaces are eternally grateful. But... Turner is no Texan, and all of the money in the world cannot change that.

Texans -- native and transplant alike -- are well-represented on the list. Leading the pack of Lone Star empressarios are the King Ranch heirs, with a combined total acreage of 851,642 acres. The King Ranch is among the many reasons I am proud to call Texas home, and its history, triumphs and tribulations have been well-chronicled. Coming in at Nos. 12 and 13, respectively, are the Lykes Bros. Heirs from Florida who own approximately 240,000 acres in west Texas, and Governor Dolph Briscoe whose holdings were estimated at 560,000 acres. Notably, Gov. Briscoe, on whose Gato Creek Ranch I have hunted, "declined to confirm published reports of the size of the Briscoe Ranch."

Number 14 on the list is "the nation's largest ranch under one fence" owned by the W.T. Waggoner Estate. This contiguous parcel of 520,000 acres (approximately 800 square miles) is located near Vernon, Texas in Wise County. It was founded in the mid-1800's and maintains the "Three D" brand.

Number 15 is another Texas household name -- O'Connor. The O’Connor family’s ties to cattle ranching in South Texas date back to the 1830s, when Thomas O’Connor arrived from Ireland. Today, the descendants of D.M. O’Connor share ownership of an estimated 500,000 acres of ranchland in and around Victoria County.

The 18th, 19th and 20th biggest landowners all maintain deep and storied Texas roots.

Number 18 are the East family descendants. Their San Antonio Viejo and Santa Fe Ranches were assembled by Alice Gertrudis Kleberg East after she cashed out her interest in the King Ranch. She was a member of the Kleberg family -- owners of the King Ranch.

No. 19 is Anette Marion, heir to the Four Sixes Ranch Comprised of one-third million acres, the ranch has a storied history that began with a poker game and a winning hand of four sixes—reputedly, but not so. The real history of the Four Sixes began with Samuel Burk Burnett, who became one of the most influential and prosperous cattlemen in Texas. Before the age of 20, he purchased from Frank Crowley in Denton County a herd of cattle wearing the 6666 brand. Burnett recorded the brand in 1875 in Wichita County, Texas, on the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation in 1881and in other counties in years following. The Four Sixes Ranch continues today as a forerunner in the cattle industry, and maintains a breeding herd of some 7,000 mother Angus cows. The ranch is also recognized for its exceptional horses. The brand used on the Sixes’ horses is the same one burned on the first horses Burk Burnett bought.

No. 20 is a San Antonio legacy -- La Escalera Ranch owned by Builder Gerald Lyda -- the builder of projects as great as Texas Memorial Stadium (now DKR) The Tower of the Americas, La Cantera, Fiesta Texas and the Alamodome. La Escalera Ranch (III Brand) is one of the largest cattle ranches in Texas consisting of more than 320,000 deeded acres in five counties (Pecos, Reeves, Brewster, Archer and Baylor).

Other notable Texas properties are ranked 23 (Jeff Bezos -- 290,000 acres), Jones heirs (255,000 acres), Frank Yturria Ranch, Hearst Ranch.

To see the complete Land Report 100, click here.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers