A Chinese billionaire and a California timber family have become among the largest private landowners in the U.S. following major purchases of Oregon forests.
Those findings come from The Land Report, a magazine that details annually the top 100 private landowners in the U.S. Its most recent report was published Jan. 9.
The magazine’s research team found that Sierra Pacific Industries’ 2021 acquisition of 175,000 acres of forestland and mills, through its buyout of a family-owned timber company in Douglas County, made the Redding, California based Emmerson Family the largest private landowner in the U.S. The family, which owns Sierra Pacific, has 2.4 million acres of forests logged for timber in Oregon, California and Washington.
The report also found that a Chinese billionaire and entrepreneur, Tianqiao Chen, became the second largest foreign owner of U.S. land following the purchase, through his investment company, of nearly 200,000 acres of forestland in Klamath and Deschutes counties nearly a decade ago. The Irving family of Canada is the largest foreign landowner, with more than 1.2 million acres of timberland in Maine.
Chen’s fortune comes from an online gaming company he founded in 1999 called Shanda Interactive Entertainment.
Chen’s stake in Oregon has drawn the ire of U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, an Oregon Republican, who expressed concern over Chen’s membership in the Chinese Communist Party.
“Foreign ownership of United States’ land by our adversaries is a serious problem that has rightfully sparked unease among farmers, ranchers and foresters across the country,” Chavez-DeRemer said in a news release last Friday. “I’m deeply concerned that a member of the Chinese Communist Party owns tens of thousands of forestland acres – one of our most precious and finite resources – in my district.”
Chavez-DeRemer is among several members of Congress who have proposed legislation during the last year that would limit the purchase of U.S. land by foreigners, especially from China.
Chen and his investment company said in a news release Tuesday that they did not try to hide the purchase of Oregon land. The company’s communications director, Jason Reindorp, said in an email to the Capital Chronicle that they asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment to review the purchase before it was made.
“They determined there were absolutely no national security concerns,” Reindorp said.