Nebraska’s Largest Landowners: From Ted Turner to the Federal Government

Nebraska is a state known for its wide open spaces and acres upon acres of farmland. But who exactly owns all that land in the Cornhusker State?

Here’s a look at some of the largest landowners in Nebraska:

1. Federal Government

The federal government owns more land in Nebraska than any other entity, with over 549,346 acres under federal control.

Much of this land is part of Nebraska’s national forests, grasslands, and other protected areas managed by federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

National park sites like Scotts Bluff National Monument and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument make up some of the federally owned acreage.

Federal water projects like reservoirs and dams operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also account for a significant portion.

2. Ted Turner

Media mogul Ted Turner is reportedly the largest private landowner in Nebraska, with over 500,000 acres of land holdings in the state.

His Nebraska properties are part of Turner Enterprises, Inc. which includes over 2 million acres of land across the U.S.

Turner uses much of his Nebraska land for bison ranching through his restaurant chain Ted’s Montana Grill.

Some of Turner’s land also includes pristine prairie that is being conserved. Turner has a long-standing connection to Nebraska through family ties to the state.

His extensive Nebraska holdings make him the second largest individual landowner in the entire country.

3. BNSF Railway

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway is a major landholder in Nebraska, with around 2.5 million acres of property statewide.

As one of the largest railroad companies in North America, BNSF requires substantial land holdings for its rail lines, yards, terminals, and other facilities essential for operating an extensive freight transportation network.

Nearly all of BNSF’s Nebraska properties are directly tied to existing rail infrastructure or held for future expansion projects.

The amount of land owned by BNSF in Nebraska reflects the central role railroad transportation has historically played in the state.

4. State of Nebraska

The state government itself holds around 977,000 acres of public land within Nebraska’s borders.

These lands include state parks, wildlife management areas, recreational trails, historical sites, and other resources held in trust for the people of Nebraska.

Notable state land holdings include Chadron, Indian Cave, and Niobrara State Parks. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission manages many state recreational lands like Nebraska’s nature trails and wildlife areas.

The state also owns land utilized for transportation, corrections, administrative offices, and educational institutions.

As both land manager and steward, state lands provide recreation, natural areas, and other public resources.

5. Weyerhaeuser Company

Timber giant Weyerhaeuser is one of the largest private landowners in Nebraska after acquiring rival firm Plum Creek Timber in 2016.

Weyerhaeuser now owns around 765,000 acres of timberlands in Nebraska, primarily in the Niobrara Valley region of northern Nebraska.

The company sustainably harvests trees at these timber sites to produce wood products at mills in Nebraska and elsewhere. Weyerhaeuser also sells some of its Nebraska properties for conservation and recreational use.

As a supplier of lumber and other wood-based construction materials, Weyerhaeuser relies heavily on its forested land holdings in timber-producing regions like Nebraska.

Conclusion

In a state like Nebraska with so much agricultural and natural land, it’s no surprise that the largest landholders are those with major transportation, economic, and resource interests.

While private owners like Ted Turner and Weyerhaeuser Company hold significant acreages, the federal government remains the single largest landowner, demonstrating the continual impact of public policy on the nation’s lands.

With sound stewardship and care, Nebraska’s wide open spaces will hopefully remain productive and pristine for generations to come, regardless of who owns them.