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Far West Texas ranchers among the largest landowners nationwide

December 13th, 2012 under Top Stories

By JEFF MATHEIS

FAR WEST TEXAS – Twelve landowners with ties to Far West Texas have been recognized in The Land Report magazine’s 2012 fall showcase issue.

Editor-in-chief Eric O’Keefe had a providential start toward appreciating the asset class. O’Keefe’s childhood homed looked onto the H.L. Kokernot family’s O6 Ranch in Alpine. The Kokernot heirs own 278,000 acres in Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Pecos counties.

O’Keefe said the landowners are an incredibly diverse group of people. One through line is the fact that, though many landowners don’t like to be referred to as ecological, green, or anything that smacks of the liberal elite, the landowners are all incredible land stewards interested in maximizing the land in a way that will best benefit ecosystems, and species for generations to come, according to O’Keefe.

Land in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend area is some of the most beautiful country in the nation. (file photo by ALBERTO HALPERN)

The Land Report highlights the fact that the D.M. O’Connor family, of which heirs Louise O’Connor and Virginia Lieberman are active philanthropists for the arts in West Texas, pioneered the drilling of artesian wells to stave off drought conditions.

Clayton and Modesta Williams Jr., 90th among the 100, have been recognized by the Texas Park as Wildlife Foundation for their innovative techniques to restore and conserve land.

Malone Mitchell III was selected for the 2009 Lone Star Steward award. Malone’s 350,000 acre Longfellow Ranch is known for world class hunting in maintaining mule deer and whitetail, aoudad, javelina, turkey, dove, and blue quail.

The Lykes Bros. heirs property, 615,000 acres overall and 275,000 acres in Texas, contains a forestry division that developed a high-yielding eucalyptus as a future bioenergy feedstock and is developing a cellulosic ethanol facility that will convert renewable grasses to fuel. The Lykes Far West Texas holding is the historic O2 Ranch in Brewster County.

Landowners and self-made billionaires Brad Kelley and Jeff Bezos are more recent additions to the Land Report 100 and reflect diversity among the asset class.

Bezos is the founder of Amazon.com and is 26th of The Land Report 100. His Corn Ranch, located just south of Guadalupe National Park in Hudspeth and Culberson counties, is the site of his private space exploration venture, Blue Origin. Blue Origin has ongoing test flights at the West Texas property. Recently, NASA recently awarded Blue Origin $22 million to continue their work.

The ongoing acquisition of land by cigarette-magnate Brad Kelley, now the fourth  largest landowner in the country, “reflects an increasingly popular investment in uncertain financial times,” according to the Wall Street Journal. In the article Kelley says he “was drawn to West Texas, where he says he now has about 850,000 acres, because prices were good and he found the land beautiful and out of the way.” Mr. Kelley leases some of that land for ranching and other for breeding rare and exotic animals.

Kelly’s holdings are throughout Far West Texas.

The story of land in West Texas is also, of course, a story of pioneers, and multigenerational landholdings.

The McCoy and Remme families are 39th of the Land Report 100. “The Emmett McCoy story is a perfect example of what we like to extol,” said O’Keefe. Emmett McCoy was not only someone who created success for himself, but created a legacy for his family. One of their ranches is in Jeff Davis County, and the family owns McCoy building supply centers in Alpne and elsewhere in Texas, New Mexico, and several other states.

Eighty-second on the Land Report 100 are the Brite Ranch heirs. According to the Texas State Historical Association, Luke Brite endured drought and a 1917 raid of Mexican invaders, possibly associated with Pancho Villa on the Brite Ranch in Presidio County. Fourth generation family member Jim White III now oversees the 125,000 acre ranch, along with his father, J.E. White, his sister, Hester Ann White, his brothers, Mac and Beau, and their familes.

Of other members of The Land Report 100, The Nunley Family, 23, The Reynolds Family, 35, and Roxana Hayne and Joan Kelleher, 43, also have ties to Far West Texas.

The Land Report has been published from the heart of Dallas quarterly since April 2007. Read more at thelandreport.com.

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