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The Private Landowners of the West's Vast Open Spaces

Wealthy buyers are snapping up large parcels of land and imposing new rules. Residents say restricting access is not fair and the actions are affecting communities and their way of life.
July 9, 2019, 12pm PDT | Camille Fink
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Zack Frank

Julie Turkewitz reports on the wealthy individuals buying up large amounts of land throughout the country, particularly in Western states:

Today, just 100 families own about 42 million acres across the country, a 65,000-square-mile expanse, according to the Land Report, a magazine that tracks large purchases. Researchers at the magazine have found that the amount of land owned by those 100 families has jumped 50 percent since 2007.

While some of these landowners have worked to restore and conserve wilderness areas, others have put in place restrictions that have angered local residents. For example, billionaires Dan and Farris Wilkes own 700,000 acres, including land in Idaho. Almost 300 miles of the Idaho property borders public lands, and they put up gates and signs prohibiting trespassing. "They also revoked road-use contracts that propped up the region’s multimillion-dollar snowmobile industry, shut down hunting on their land and told timber companies to pull crews from the area," writes Turkewitz.

Locals say these new landowners are taking away access to areas that they have used for generations, notes Turkewitz. "The arrival of this new class of landholders comes as the region is experiencing the fastest population boom in the country, which is driving up housing prices and the cost of living and leaving many residents fearful of losing their culture and economic stability."

Full Story:
Published on Monday, July 22, 2019 in The New York Times
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