The Wilks Ranch has grown to more than 42,000 acres, making the outfit Farris Wilks registered back in 2010 the single largest landowner in Idaho County. The Wilks family has been in the statewide news from time to time since 2013, when the Lewiston Tribune reported their purchase of two Doumecq Plains ranches totaling about 36,000 acres.
The more recent count, which the Free Press obtained from Idaho County, indicates the Wilks Ranch holdings have increased by about nine square miles since then, not counting about one square mile in the southern part of Idaho County which the Wilks family owns through Texas-based DF Development, LLC. Idaho Secretary of State records indicate DF Development is governed by Dan Wilks and Farris Wilks, both of Cisco, Texas. The McCall Star-News recently reported access to the DF Development land, reportedly totaling 172,000 acres, will be “by invitation only.”
But the Free Press has learned it’s a different situation in Idaho County.
John Foster of Kestrel West, registered lobbyist of 25 corporate entities in Idaho, who reached out to the Free Press on behalf of the Wilks Ranch, said the Wilks are prepared to allow hunters to ask permission to hunt on Wilks Ranch land.
Permission-seekers may contact email@example.com, Attention: Jordan.
But the Wilks family wants to keep the Wilks Ranch ground from being abused in ways the DF Development ground had been.
The Star-News reported the DF Development land had been damaged by ATV use “where riders were creating new trails, leading to erosion and other problems,” that campers had left behind large amounts of trash and that the area was “over-hunted.”
In 2011, Forbes Magazine reported “the deal that secured these newcomers a spot on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.” Forbes traced their background to Voy Wilks, who went into masonry full time in the 1950s, through how Farris and Dan followed in their father’s footsteps and founded Wilks Masonry in 1995, to their development and sale of hydraulic fracturing and oil field services firm Frac Tech. When they sold Frac Tech to investors in 2002, according to Forbes, the brothers reaped $3.2 billion, after which they bought a ranch in Montana. Forbes reported Farris was then pastor of a Christian church in Rising Star, Texas.
The principal people behind the Wilks companies have rarely if ever been interviewed by news media.
In response to questions the Free Press asked via e-mail, Foster relayed answers from Wilks family member and Wilks Development Company manager Justin Wilks.
Here’s the full Q&A:
ICFP: How do the Wilks tell their family story? How did their ancestors arrive in this country, and how did the family come into their money?
Wilks: “Our ancestors came to the U.S. 1600s, and our family is a proud member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas representing five generations in that state. We like to say that our family came to this country before it was a country.”
ICFP: What roles if any do the Wilks see for themselves in the communities where they’ve bought land? How much time will they be personally spending in Idaho County?
Wilks: “Our initial impact will be through responsible timber ranching operations. We enjoy a healthy relationship with the people in the communities where we live and work, and look to align ourselves with organizations that share our values. We want to spend as much time as possible in Idaho County.”
ICFP: Philosophically, what is their view of what it means to have neighbors and to be neighbors?
Wilks: “We believe our philosophy is in line with our fellow Idahoans. We will be good, respectful neighbors, able to pursue our independence and privacy.”
ICFP: What expectations do the Wilks have for the people who live and work and play here – and what can the people here expect of the Wilks?
Wilks: “We ask only that our neighbors are responsible and respect us and our property. We will be happy to respond in kind.”
ICFP: For what reasons did the Wilks buy land in Idaho? For what reasons did the Wilks buy the land specifically in Idaho County? To what uses will they put the land?
Wilks: “Owning property is one of the greatest parts of being an American. It’s a founding principle of our country. We enjoy owning land, and our family has a strong history of responsible recreational and commercial land management. And we are a family of avid outdoorsmen, and enjoy hunting fishing, hiking and snowmobiling.”
“At this time, we are conducting a thorough review of the land in Adams, Valley, Boise and Idaho counties, and are evaluating best uses. We have already re-commenced timber operations and are actively considering other initiatives such as wildlife restoration and responsible community access.”
ICFP: Most people in Idaho County have strong respect for private property rights. Many are wondering whether the Wilks will allow public access to their land. There’s no doubt the people here will respect their choice, so long as it’s made clear. Will the Wilks allow access to their land? If so, how do they intend to handle that and who should locals talk to for permission to hunt on Wilks land? Have they considered participating in Idaho Fish and Game’s Access Yes program?
Wilks: “We’ve met with Idaho Fish and Game, but we’re still a long way out from determinations. We may elect to have small pieces of our land participate in the Access Yes program.”
ICFP: Have the Wilks taken a position on whether federal land should remain federal? Do the Wilks support or oppose transfer of federal land to states? Their support for Ted Cruz is documented, as is Cruz’s support for transfer. Why did they back Cruz in 2015?
Wilks: “We decline to comment.”
ICFP: To what extent have the Wilks involved themselves in local and state politics? What if any positions have the Wilks taken regarding Idaho Fish and Game policy matters?
Wilks: “We’re not going to comment on our personal politics.”