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Why Yale Owns a Forest

College endowments snapped up timber for higher returns, and Yale’s found itself in a controversy.
Wagner Forest Management Ltd. manages land owned by Yale’s endowment in New Hampshire.

Wagner Forest Management Ltd. manages land owned by Yale’s endowment in New Hampshire.

Photographer: Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/Bloomberg
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In New Hampshire’s Great North Woods, a wilderness of unspoiled lakes and waterfalls just south of Canada, Rick Samson is monitoring a piece of Yale’s $25 billion endowment.

From a mud-splattered pickup, Samson, a 71-year-old Coos County commissioner wearing sunglasses, shorts, and a moose T-shirt, watches with disapproval as a pincer mounted on the back of a truck drops logs into another truck at the edge of a clearing about the size of a football field. The area is part of the thousands of acres the university owns in the state. Samson and his passenger, Wayne Montgomery, a 40-year forest industry veteran clad head to toe in khaki, blast Yale’s methods. “They’re cutting everything, even the growing stock,” Montgomery says as he watches the trucks.