Over the past six years, two Texas billionaire brothers have bought about 38,000 acres of land on the Joseph Plains in Idaho County and apparently have closed access to local residents for hunting and recreation.
According to the Idaho County Assessor’s Office, beginning in 2008, Farris and Dan Wilks of Cisco, Texas, started purchasing ranches, including the Evergreen Land and Cattle Co., owned by the Hitchcock family, and the Robbins-France ranch in western Idaho County, worth a combined total of $2.4 million. The final transaction took place in September.
Several attempts to reach the Wilks brothers or their spokespeople for comment were unsuccessful.
The brothers also have reportedly purchased nearly 300,000 acres in Montana in recent years.
During a recent Idaho County Commission meeting, comments were made that residents believe public access to the Joseph Plains area for hunting and recreation, which has been granted in the past by the previous landowners, has been closed off since the Wilkses took over. The comments took place in a conversation about the proposed Lochsa Land Exchange.
The commissioners said this week they are not concerned about the Wilkses owning large tracts of land in the county and speculated that people might get permission to hunt in the area on an individual basis if they approached the ranch managers with their request.
“As long as (the Wilks brothers) pay their taxes, I’m not worried,” Commission Chairman Jim Chmelik said.
The Wilks brothers came by their fortune from a masonry business started by their father, Voy, according to Forbes magazine.
Later, the brothers founded Frac Tech, a company that manufactures hydraulic fracturing and oil field services. In 2011, the Wilkses sold their nearly 70 percent interests in the company for $3.5 billion to a partnership led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
Farris Wilks, 63, is married and the father of 11 children. He is the pastor of the Assembly of Yahweh Seventh Day Church near Cisco, a conservative Christian church that was founded by his parents, Voy and Myrtle, in 1947.
Dan Wilks, 59, is married and the father of six children.
The Wilks brothers recently made headlines when they and their wives gave $15 million to the campaign for presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the brothers and their wives previously had donated only $263,000 to federal candidates before going all-out for Cruz.