Letters from the West

Texas billionaires put 54,000 acres of Idaho land up for sale

The Cabarton stretch of the North Fork of the Payette River is located south of several properties recently sold by the Wilks brothers.
The Cabarton stretch of the North Fork of the Payette River is located south of several properties recently sold by the Wilks brothers.

The Texas billionaires who bought and then closed off access to 172,000 acres of forest land in southern Idaho have put 54,000 of those acres up for sale.

Farris and Dan Wilks made $3.5 billion selling off their successful fracking and oil drilling service business in Cisco, Texas in 2011. They have listed six tracts of forest, mountain and riverfront property in Idaho, including a 31,000-acre parcel south and west of McCall in Valley and Adams counties. They are asking for $61 million for the land called McCall Red Ridge Ranch that runs west from West Mountain Road.

A second, 11,000-acre tract, called Boise Ridge Mountain Ranch, is located between Horseshoe Bend and Idaho City just east of the Bogus Basin ski area in Boise County. They are asking just over $10 million for the thickly timbered steep parcel just over the mountains from Boise.

The Clear Creek Ranch — 35 miles southeast of McCall, just east of Cabarton — has 4,100 acres of land offered at $5.6 million. Also offered: a 1,980-acre parcel southeast of Lake Fork called Paddy Flat Summit Ranch, and an 853-acre property with three miles of river frontage near Cascade called Big Creek Ranch, both in Valley County.

They also are selling another 4,664-acre ranch near White Bird with 9 miles of Salmon River frontage in Idaho County.

The brothers bought the forestland in 2016 from Southern Pine Plantations, a private timberland investment company based in Macon, Ga., which had bought it from Potlatch. The vast scenic timberlands, primarily in Valley, Boise and Adams counties, are intermingled with Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest and Idaho state endowment lands, along with other nonindustrial private lands.

Once owned by Boise Cascade, the lands had been historically open to public access. The change in status initially upset long-time hunters, snowmobilers, four-wheelers and loggers. The Wilks family has since helped open up some areas to snowmobilers and brought the loggers back.

The sellers are listed as DF Development, the company owned by the Wilkses. The lands are being sold through Wilks Ranch Brokers of Cisco, Texas. Broker Jimmy Williams did not return calls from the Statesman.

Wilks Ranch Brokers also has listings for Wilks properties in Texas, Montana and Tennessee. The brothers have purchased 672,000 acres in five states across the West, according to Forbes. The brothers have not talked to the press in Idaho except for an interview by Farris’ son Justin in the Idaho County Free Press.

“We believe our philosophy is in line with our fellow Idahoans,” Justin Wilks told the Free Press. “We will be good, respectful neighbors, able to pursue our independence and privacy.”

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker