We often see the vast open plains and fields in North Dakota, but how often do you ask yourself, "Who owns all of that land?" Here is some information that may help.

Here are the top four largest landowners in North Dakota.

1. Private Farmland

With 38,548,498 acres of privately held farmland as of December 2020, it makes sense that North Dakota's primary industry is agriculture. Thousands of people can work on different farms that create a wide range of products thanks to this business, which provides jobs for one-fourth of the workforce. These items include:

  • Flax
  • Field
  • Peas
  • Honey
  • Sunflowers
  • Canola

Numerous animals can be seen living on North Dakota's farms. Despite the COVID-19 epidemic, statistics show that the state has 1.95 million head of cattle and calves as of January 2021, a 4% rise from January 2020.

While some of these animals help increase the amount of beef produced in the area, others supply more than 300 million pounds of milk that is used to make and eat necessities like butter, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt.

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Much of the agricultural land in North Dakota is home to ranches. Among the most well-liked ones are these:

Bar X Ranch

Have you always wished to travel through North Dakota's Badlands? That's exactly where you should be, at Bar X Ranch. This popular western-style ranch, tucked away in Medora, offers you the chance to create priceless experiences by horseback riding, camping, and hiking. You can hunt prairie dogs here for free if you're a prairie dog hunter! However, you have to first obtain a varmint license from North Dakota Game and Fish.

Bar X Ranch, nestled in Medora, is a favored western-style ranch that allows you to make unforgettable memories riding horses, camping, and hiking

Vollmer Angus Ranch Incorporated

This family-run ranch was founded in 1952 by Alvin and Verna Vollmer and is situated in Wing, Burleigh County. It’s home to roughly 600 cows that graze freely on the vast prairie-covered land and some dogs. Buyers of Angus bulls seeking characteristics like efficiency, deep bodies, and thick structures also frequent this area.

Oak Ridge Ranch

This is another ranch on the vast farmlands of North Dakota that is run and owned by a family. Nestled on the western flank of the Turtle Mountains in the state, Oak Ridge Ranch is a premier breeding facility and the first choice for individuals seeking superior pedigrees. It is run by the Gustafson family, who have been involved in horse breeding for more than 60 years.

Those who are curious about breeding, raising, and training horses are drawn to Oak Ridge Ranch. It also draws those who love the outdoors and breathtaking views of the prairie and forests.

Rust Mountain View Ranch

Raising Angus and Simmental cattle, the Rust Mountain View Ranch is situated in Mercer. It began when John and Violet Rust, ardent commercial ranchers and farmers, founded it in the 1940s. The Rust family still owns and runs this successful company, which is run by Jesse, Josh, and John EL along with their spouses.

Sheldak Ranch

Only since the 1960s has the fabled Sheldak Ranch existed. However, it has established a strong reputation as one of North Dakota's top producers of Appaloosa horses.

2. North Dakota Department of Trust Lands


Second on our list of North Dakota's largest landowners is the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, which oversees more than 2,600,000 acres in the state. The majority of this land was obtained by this organization by virtue of the Enabling Act, a law passed by Congress in 1889 that permitted the division of the Dakota Territory.

In addition, land grants were made possible by the Enabling Act to fund North Dakota's public institutions, including colleges and universities. The majority of the land is now leased by the state department in order to generate income, enabling the lessees to utilize it for farming, including the grazing of cattle.

On school trust lands, North Dakotans are also free to hunt and fish. Lessees may restrict access to their cattle, so it is necessary to get in touch with them in advance of any visit.

3. Federal Government


Of the 2.27 billion acres in the United States, 27.1% are owned by the federal government. It oversees 1,735,756 acres in North Dakota, which is just 3.0% of the state's total area of 44,452,480 acres. Ranking #31 among the states in the union with the most land owned by the federal government is the Peace Garden State, trailed by South Dakota, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Vermont.

The government organizations in charge of overseeing federally owned land in North Dakota are listed below:

U.S. Forest Service

The Forest Service is in charge of five state forests, a memorial groove, and 1,106,034 acres of land in North Dakota.

  • Turtle Mountain State Forest
  • Sheyenne River State Forest
  • Homen State Forest
  • Mouse River State Forest
  • Tetrault Woods State Forest
  • Nowesta Memorial Tree Grove

Despite the differences in features, all of these places aim to maximize the recreational opportunities available to North Dakotans. You can therefore engage in thrilling activities like fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, hunting, camping, and cross-country skiing by taking a trip to any of them.

How the F.S. Maintain Forests in North Dakota

The responsibility for caring for the forests it manages falls on the Forest Service. For this reason, the agency periodically carries out surveys throughout the entire state to identify issues like pests that pose a threat to these resources. Additionally, it collaborates closely with foresters and other experts to eliminate the difficulties.

The Forest Service surveys the entire state on a regular basis to identify issues like pests that pose a threat to these resources.

In addition, the Forest Service oversees the NDFS Fire Management Program, which aids in preventing wildfires from endangering people, property, and natural resources. Sadly, the state sees a lot of these tragedies. Over 100,000 acres were burned by 1,400 fires in the state between January and June of 2021. Sadly, most of them were preventable because humans were their primary cause.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strives to preserve and improve plants, animals (including fish), and their habitats, just like other states across the country. To accomplish that, this agency currently manages the Ecological Services Field Office, which works with other state and federal agencies and owns 484,681 acres in North Dakota.

Several initiatives are available from the North Dakota Ecological Services Field Office aimed at protecting these threatened species:

  • Whooping crane
  • Dakota skipper
  • Pallid sturgeon
  • Black-footed ferret
  • Poweshiek skipperling
  • Western prairie fringed orchid

A Former Montana Wild West Attraction is For Sale

On the Continental Divide west of Helena sits a one-of-a-kind property called Frontier Town. The former tourist attraction comes with a heck of a story. It's listed for $1.7 million.

Gallery Credit: Michael Foth



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