Montana and the nation's leading land owners

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CNBC's Robert Frank recently ranked the top five landowners in America, and Montana played a prominent role in the story.

The role was that of a decoy.

The story's time hook — news speak for why Frank decided to present this list now — is the huge purchase of Montana land by two billionaire brothers from Texas. Noted frackers Farris and Dan Wilks bought 177,000 acres of ranch land, bringing their total holdings in the state to more than 276,000, according to Frank. To put the acreage in perspective, that's 431 square miles.

But even with the purchase, the Wilks brothers don't make the list of the nation's top landowners. As Frank put it:

Maybe 270,000 acres isn't what it used to be.
...
As large as that sounds, their purchases still don't rank them in the top 10 individual or family landowners in America. In fact, they would barely crack the top 30.

Who did land among the top five landowners? Only one name with any connection to Montana: Ted Turner, in second place. Here's how Forbes listed Turner's holdings in 2010:

Billionaire Ted Turner owns just shy of three Rhode Islands, including the spectacular Vermejo Park Ranch straddling the border of New Mexico and Colorado, which at 590,823 acres, or 920 square miles, would cover a substantial portion of the 668,753-acre Ocean State. Turner's other U.S. holdings include ranchland in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, as well as a 30,000-acre hunting preserve in Florida he calls home, totaling 2 million acres.

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