Bill Gates is a Big Land Owner But Not in Idaho
Some of America’s largest private landowners have their mitts on a good portion of Idaho. Some are familiar names and some are controversial (or both). Bill Gates's name comes up frequently on my show. The Microsoft founder has property holdings across the country, including rich farmland along the Palouse. He’s listed by Microsoft News as being among the 50 largest landowners in America, however. The story doesn’t mention his Idaho holdings.
You'll Recognize Many of the Names
Some of the other names on the list are also familiar. The Simplot family, the Simpsons, and the Wilks brothers. All have large holdings in Idaho. Some of these lands are devoted to growing foodstuffs and some produce lumber. If you consider the Wilks clan, the brothers have sold large swaths of territory in Idaho and Montana. They often buy land and then end up prospecting for natural gas reserves.
Some of the other names on the top 50 list may own property here but in smaller amounts. A wealthy landowner in a state elsewhere that owns a vacation home here wouldn’t be considered a big holder of Idaho real estate.
Uncle Sam Owns a Lot of Property
Of course, the largest owner of land in Idaho and much of the Intermountain West is the federal government. Technically, that means you are a taxpayer and a constituent. It’s a strange investment. It’s like owning a ranch but you have very little input when it comes to daily operations. In other words, the cook or stable boy gives you daily orders.
Many of the country’s largest property owners inherited land from pioneer forebearers, many of whom were dirt poor when they first settled. Some failed and others struck the equivalent of gold (or actual precious metals!)