Image default
Weekend Getaways

Meet the 9 largest landowners in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a state known for its beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife. Much of the state is made up of majestic forests with multiple different owners. This article will examine some of these top Wisconsin landowners and examine their stories. We’ll also discuss why they choose to invest in such large lots and what it takes to be a successful landowner.

Let’s dive into who owns the most land in all of Wisconsin.

1. Wisconsin County Forests Association – 2.4 million acres

The Wisconsin County Forests Association (WCFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1968. It manages 2.4 million acres of the state’s forest.

The organization provides guidance and support to local governments. For example, each county forest has its 15-year plan focused on preserving Wisconsin’s natural resources. The WCFA also focuses on providing public opportunities. You can explore the state’s amazing forests and experience Wisconsin’s wild beauty first-hand!

How did the WCFA come about? In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Wisconsin experienced a massive logging and land clearing boom. This led to Wisconsin becoming a leader in lumber production. By 1915, however, all forests had disappeared. Getting new settlers to come and convert these cutover areas wasn’t easy.

Landowners unable to pay their taxes had no choice but to abandon their lands, leaving the counties financially impoverished. Fortunately, the state legislature has introduced the Forest Harvesting Act and the County Forest Protection Act. The law allows counties to acquire these tax-defaulting lands and turn them into county forests.

2. Federal Government – 1.9 million acres

The federal government is one of the largest landowners in Wisconsin, cultivating 5.33% of the state’s total acreage. That means 1.9 million acres are under its jurisdiction.

Federal grant programs help keep the state’s land available for public use. The federal government is also intensively involved in promoting nature conservation initiatives. For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) offers local people the opportunity to make a difference. There are also local volunteer opportunities with the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

The Land and Water Conservation Fund

In 1965, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant program. Their mission is to provide quality outdoor recreation. Thanks to its 50 percent cost-sharing initiative, a whopping 1,800 projects across the country have been a success. In addition, over $81 million has been invested by the federal government.

Recreational trails program

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) state grant program helps keep the trails safe. Organizations wishing to update an existing cycle path must apply for funding from the RTP. Eligible parties can receive significant reimbursement of their project costs. Since RTP funds do not count toward conviction, organizations can ensure trails remain available for outdoor fun!

3. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – 1.6 million acres

Beautiful Wisconsin summer nature background.  Areal view from the rocky Ice Age trail during sunset hours.  Devils Lake State Park, Baraboo area, Wisconsin, Midwest USA.
Areal view from the rocky Ice Age trail during sunset hours. Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin.


Since its inception in 1967, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has been a leader in preserving the state’s land. The agency owns and manages over 1.6 million acres of land for Wisconsin citizens. Over 5.8 million residents benefit from the recreational areas of the estates and the diversity of habitats.

The WDNR works hard to manage water resources, parks, forests, fish populations and more. They focus on creating sustainable environments while encouraging public interaction. Outdoor opportunities like fishing, camping, and hiking keep Wisconsin a top travel destination!

In terms of resources, the agency helps conserve the state’s natural resources such as crushed stone, sand, and gravel. One way to do this is to prevent development at key reservation locations.

4. Land Trusts – 796,902 acres

Land trusts in the Badger State have already received an incredible 796,902 acres of private land. They have made 932 miles of trails from this country available for public use. One of the most prominent trusts taking action is the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust.

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust (NWLT)

The Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust (NWLT) cares for Wisconsin’s biodiversity. Founded in 1996, the non-profit organization has actively protected over 6,000 acres in 12 counties across the region. For example, NWLT proudly manages Puchyan Prairie, a 50-acre site filled with new and unique habitats for native wildlife.

Puchyan Prairie

One of the most popular public preserves in northeastern Wisconsin is Puchyan Prairie, and with good reason. This natural area is home to an impressive mosaic of wetland communities. Once there, it’s hard to believe you’re still in Wisconsin.

The prairie includes wet and dry mesic (damp) sandy prairies, sedge meadows, and swamps, all surrounded by the Puchyan River. Mandatory burns and removal of invasive species are some ways NWLT protects existing habitats.

5. Board of Commissioners of Public Land – 74,000 acres

Wide aerial view of a dramatic, fiery sunrise over the Wisconsin State Capitol.  The statue on the dome appears to be holding the rising sun.
Wide aerial view of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

©Szymon Raczkowiak/

Since 1833, the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) has protected Wisconsin. BCPL consists of the Treasurer, Attorney General and Secretary of State and has managed over 10 million acres of trust land. BCPL even helps generate revenue to fund public school libraries.

6. Devil’s Hole Ranch – 4,500 acres

Devil’s Hole Ranch is a remarkable 4,500-acre family-owned ranch in Wisconsin. The ranch is nestled in the hills and deep valleys of Wisconsin’s Driftless region.

The Menn family has successfully run the ranch for generations. The large site is home to Angus Feeder calves and Quarter Horses bred and trained on the ranch. They also sell the most delicious fresh garlic!

7. Rosendale Dairy Farm – 2,800 acres

Did you know that Rosendale Dairy Farm in Pickett, WI is the state’s largest dairy farm? Founded in 1999 by three passionate co-founders – Jim Ostrom, John Vosters and Todd Willer – Rosendale is a huge success. With 8,400 dairy cows producing 78,000 gallons of milk daily, it’s no wonder this farm is a pillar of Wisconsin dairy production.

In addition, the Rosendale facility produces and stores up to 90 million gallons of manure and wastewater annually. That’s right, the by-product Rosendale Dairy Farm is famous for is manure. This natural fertilizer is essential to keep operations running and delivering premium dairy products.

8. Badger Hollow Solar Farm – 2,200 acres

Badger Hollow Solar Farm is a shining example of the power of sustainability! This 2,200-acre solar farm was established in 2008 by Madison Gas and Electric and WI Public Service Cooperation. The future-oriented company strives to find innovative ways to generate energy.

The Badger Hollow Solar Farm is set to revolutionize Wisconsin’s power generation. Plans could expand their operations by over 1,000 acres. As Wisconsin’s largest solar farm, they are an inspiration for green energy solutions! The project is also helping to provide residents with great new job opportunities.

9. Habelman Cranberry Farm – 700 acres

The unique Habelman Brothers Cranberry Farm is the perfect example of what a little hard work, dedication and family tradition can achieve.

The farm can produce an incredible 100 to 130,000 barrels of fresh cranberries annually. That’s up to £13 million per harvest season! Up to 9 million of these delicious berries are packed on site for the fresh market.

In 1907, Edward Habelman envisioned creating a cranberry farm that would stand the test of time. He made the bold decision to trade his land for a 1/2 share in a cranberry swamp was wise. Seven years later, he secured a loan from a bank to buy the remaining half of the business. With hard work and determination, Edward and his sons nearly doubled the farm’s land, growing from 13 acres to 25.

Fast forward to today and you have the Habelman Bros. Their three properties combine 700 acres used to produce tasty cranberries. Because of their commitment to quality, the Habelman brothers are still going strong after 100 years.

What the future holds for the Wisconsin forests

East Bluff Trail in Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA overlooking majestic views of calm waters and rolling Midwestern hills.
East Bluff Trail in Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA.

©Sarah Quintans/

Wisconsin’s forests face many challenges, but the future is bright. Despite the threats of invasive species, disease and climate change, the state’s forests are growing! The growing forests are home to beautiful species such as aspen-birch, maple-linden and spruce-fir. And for those who prefer warmer forests, pine and oak pine are the predominant species in the central area of ​​the state.

The white pine, the red maple and the red pine also thrive. The number of white pines has tripled, and the red maple and red pines have doubled! Meanwhile, ash, white oak, hemlock, and sugar maple trees are steadily increasing each year. Overall, the future looks bright for Wisconsin’s thriving forests.

Final Thoughts on Top Landowners in Wisconsin

That’s a quick look at the top 9 landowners in Wisconsin. They’re an impressive bunch. The federal government does a great job in providing public open spaces. And don’t forget the Wisconsin County Forests Association (WCFA). They are a prime example of how environmental protection and economic growth can go hand in hand.

The Habelman Brothers Cranberry Farm is a stunning example of the power of hard work, dedication and family tradition. And then there’s the recent Badger Hollow Solar Farm. This project shows how powerful and advantageous renewable energy sources can be. The location also offers many employment opportunities.

Finally, the Land Trusts do their part to keep the landscape beautiful. The publicly managed spaces they maintain are stunning. If you are ever in Wisconsin you should visit Puchyan Prairie!

There are a lot of fun things to learn about Wisconsin. Check out the following articles for more insightful tips on this incredible condition.


#Meet #largest #landowners #Wisconsin

New posts