Oklahoma is home to some of the largest ranches and landholdings in the United States.
Here are some of the biggest landowners controlling wide swaths of the Sooner State’s prairies, forests, and farmland.
1. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
As the largest landowner in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) manages around 1.4 million acres of public lands across the state.
These lands encompass wildlife management areas, state parks, nature preserves, and lakes.
Key wildlife management areas under ODWC’s purview include the 650,000-acre Beaver River, the 50,000-acre Cookson Hills, and the 30,000-acre Cherokee Public Hunting Area.
Popular state parks such as Beavers Bend, Robbers Cave, and Natural Falls are also managed by the ODWC.
Responsible stewardship by ODWC aims to conserve and restore wildlife habitats ranging from pine forests to tallgrass prairies.
Public access for hiking, fishing, hunting, and nature viewing also provides recreation and education opportunities.
Balancing utilization and preservation is crucial for the long-term health of these ecosystems.
2. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
Operating from its headquarters in Ardmore, the Noble Foundation manages around 146,000 acres in south-central Oklahoma.
Most of their land is located in Carter, Johnston, and Marshall counties.
The Noble Foundation’s holdings include a number of working farms and ranches that serve as research stations.
Here they develop agricultural practices focused on soil health, water conservation, and regenerative grazing methods.
Techniques are then shared with local producers to promote sustainable farming.
In addition to crop and livestock research, the Foundation’s lands provide critical habitat for native wildlife species like the greater prairie chicken.
Responsible stewardship of these ecosystems enables the Noble Foundation to model holistic management for farmers across the Southern Great Plains.
3. The Chickasaw Nation
With over 115,000 acres of tribally-owned land, the Chickasaw Nation works to restore cultural connections and natural resources across south-central Oklahoma.
The Chickasaw White House and Council House Museum preserve historic buildings and artifacts in Tishomingo.
Popular retreat centers including Lake Texoma and Lake of the Arbuckles provide recreation opportunities.
Natural areas aim to reestablish native vegetation and wildlife populations, such as bison herds on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Moving forward, a key priority is sustainable land management that balances utilization of natural resources with habitat conservation and cultural preservation.
For the Chickasaw Nation, their lands represent a vital link to the tribe’s history, culture, and future.
4. The Osage Nation
Headquartered in Pawhuska, the Osage Nation governs the Osage Reservation and Osage County in northern Oklahoma.
With around 96,000 surface acres and over 1.4 million subsurface mineral acres, the Osage lands produce oil and gas revenues that support tribal programs and services.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, cooperatively managed with The Nature Conservancy, protects one of the largest remnants of tallgrass prairie left on earth.
Here the Osage partner to restore native grasses and conserve habitat for bison, prairie chickens, and other wildlife.
Careful stewardship of both surface and subsurface resources will enable the Osage Nation to preserve their homelands and provide for citizens far into the future.
Rebuilding an ecological balance helps sustain the tribe’s culture, governance, and economy.
5. The Drummond Family
Once Oklahoma’s largest family landholders, the Drummonds managed a cattle ranching empire across the state. However, the 2021 Land Report indicates they may have sold off their 433,000 acres in recent years.
At their height, the Drummond Ranch spanned from Pawnee southeast through Osage County with additional acreage in Texas.
Five generations oversaw these cattle operations and grain farms descending from Thomas Drummond, who claimed land during the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run.
The legacy of the Drummond family is forever intertwined with the agricultural development and wide-open spaces of northeastern Oklahoma.
Though the family may no longer retain these vast landholdings, their impact reshaped the rural fabric of the region.
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6. Bob Funk
An entrepreneur rooted in Western Oklahoma’s oil, ranching and automobile industries, Bob Funk owns approximately 175,000 acres including the 113,000-acre Bluestem Ranch.
His land holdings make Funk a leading cattle producer in the state with thousands of cattle grazing native range.
Bluestem Ranch near Watonga implements holistic management to improve soil health and grass productivity.
Funk’s investments demonstrate ranching’s continued impact and evolution in Oklahoma.
By blending innovation with generations of agricultural knowledge, his operations showcase strategies to sustain family businesses and rural communities.
From wildlife habitats to working ranches, Oklahoma’s wide open spaces remain concentrated under relatively few landowners.
Moving forward, responsible stewardship balancing utilization and conservation will be key to preserving the natural heritage and productivity of these lands.
The legacy of these owners will forever influence the prairies, forests, and communities that define Oklahoma.