On Tuesday, Yale University broke its silence on the controversial Bayroot LLC land lease deal to Northern Pass in its newsletter YaleNews.
It said that “institutional investors such as Yale typically invest with managers through partnership arrangements that limit the investors’ ability to control decisions from both a legal and best practices perspective.”
Wagner Forest Management manages the property and “did not have the ability to terminate the option to renew under the terms of the lease,” Yale’s statement said, adding Northern Pass has extended the lease to 2110. See Yale’s full statement below.
Critics have been trying to get a meeting with Yale for several months to ask that the lease with Eversource/Northern Pass not be renewed in hopes of stopping the project to bring electricity from Hydro-Quebec down a 192-mile high-voltage transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield. Instead the lease on a critical piece of land was quietly extended in mid-June.
In an op-ed piece Coös County Commissioner Rick Samson published June 14 at InDepthNH.org, he wrote: “Yale has the Power to Stop Northern Pass.”
Samson and others have been critical of Wagner Forest’s management and said he would still like to meet with Yale experts to show them the forest is not being managed properly. (see Samson’s full op-ed piece below)
“I’m more than willing to meet with people from the School of Forestry at Yale in Cambridge, Millsfield and Dummer and have them show me why what they have done is sustainable forestry. There is no way they can do that,” Samson said Tuesday night.
Samson said in his opinion piece: “… this university is on the verge of undermining the widespread and heroic conservation efforts in our county by leasing a 24-mile strip of land that is necessary for the development of Northern Pass.”
At the time, Samson was concerned that Yale’s lease with Northern Pass would expire at the end of June and said the land was likely the only viable route that remains in Coös County.
“It can move forward with the lease and enable the development of a transmission line that will permanently scar Coös County and New Hampshire. Alternatively, it can join with the residents of Coös County by stopping the lease and contributing its share of land to the barrier that our residents have constructed against an environmentally unsound project that will not help New Hampshire residents pay their electric bills,” Samson wrote.
According to a Berlin Daily Sun report, a “five-page lease, signed on June 2 by Leon J. Oliver, chairman and president of Northern Pass Transmission LLC of Manchester and on June 12 by Tom Colgan, president of Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, was filed on Tuesday afternoon, June 13, at the Coös County Deeds office.”
Samson said in his op-ed: “At a recent panel discussion at Yale University, Coös County resident Wayne Montgomery, who has extensive experience in the forestry industry, observed, ‘Yale’s manager is taking every bit of value that you can out of the forest, reducing it to a point where it will be 50 years before there’s another viable crop of timber.'”
Full Yale statement:
Yale University statement on the Northern Pass hydropower transmission line
Recently, Yale has been asked to intervene in the development of a 192-mile transmission line, known as Northern Pass, that would bring hydropower from Quebec to New Hampshire and other New England States.
The focus of petitioners has been lands in northern New Hampshire owned by Bayroot LLC. Responsibility for managing these lands rests with Wagner Forest Management, which in 2012 decided to lease these lands to the developer of the Northern Pass project.
Pointing to the July 1, 2017 expiration of the initial term of lease, petitioners sought the termination of the lease and prevention of its renewal.
The petitioners fail to recognize several important facts. First, institutional investors such as Yale typically invest with managers through partnership arrangements that limit the investors’ ability to control decisions from both a legal and best practices perspective.
Second, Wagner Forest Management did not have the ability to terminate the option to renew under the terms of the lease. Third, as a matter of public record and as reported in the press, the developer of the project has exercised its option to renew the lease and the term has been extended to 2110.
The Northern Pass project is undergoing rigorous review in the State of New Hampshire, under the purview of the Site Evaluation Committee.
Wagner Forest Management practices sustainable forest management on the Bayroot LLC lands in conformance with certification standards promulgated by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as confirmed by independent auditors. Moreover, the firm works closely with major conservation organizations, participating in a range of conservation initiatives. The Yale Investments Office views Wagner Forest Management as a world-class manager of timberland.
Yale’s longstanding approach to Endowment management is to identify and engage high-quality investment managers and to give them investment discretion. This approach has served Yale well, as demonstrated by the significant financial support the Endowment has provided to students and faculty over the decades.
Full op-ed piece by Rick Samson:
OP-ED: Coös County Commissioner: Yale has the Power to Stop Northern Pass
Title: Yale has the Power to Stop Northern Pass
The residents of Coös County have a deep appreciation for our land. We have some of the last remaining family dairy farms in New Hampshire. We are people who have scratched out a living through sustainable logging and showing vacationers the beauty of our mountains. We have dedicated our lives to showing and educating others about our environment.
From this deep appreciation for our land, we have undertaken extraordinary efforts to resist the construction of Northern Pass through our forests. Working dairy farmers have refused multi-million dollar offers from Eversource and have instead opted to sell conservation easements cheaply. The Forest Society has worked with residents to purchase blocks of land, which have created a barrier against potential Northern Pass routes.
But to protect our land, we have to fight against powerful institutions — not all of them local. One such institution is Yale University, a global leader in science research and education. Its school of forestry and environmental Science is one of the most respected institutions in the field. Yet, this university is on the verge of undermining the widespread and heroic conservation efforts in our county by leasing a 24-mile strip of land that is necessary for the development of Northern Pass.
Yale’s current lease with Northern Pass expires at the end of June, and since this is likely the only viable route that remains in Coos County, the university has a choice. It can move forward with the lease and enable the development of a transmission line that will permanently scar Coös County and New Hampshire. Alternatively, it can join with the residents of Coös County by stopping the lease and contributing its share of land to the barrier that our residents have constructed against an environmentally unsound project that will not help New Hampshire residents pay their electric bills.
Stopping the lease would be an important first step in repairing the damage that Yale has already unleashed on our county. Yale is one of the largest landowners in Coös County . At a recent panel discussion at Yale University, Coös County resident Wayne Montgomery, who has extensive experience in the forestry industry, observed, “Yale’s manager is taking every bit of value that you can out of the forest, reducing it to a point where it will be 50 years before there’s another viable crop of timber.”
Yale is also part owner of a wind farm in our county, which is situated on its land. Yale and the other owners of this wind farm negotiated a Payment In Lieu of Taxes with Coös County that was so low it caused a fiscal crisis. This revenue shortfall was only resolved through special state legislation. Given the economic struggles of the North Country, this wealth extraction has been particularly hard.
At a minimum, Yale owes Coös County and New Hampshire more significant engagement on environmental issues. I have requested a meeting with the school’s Dean both via email and in person. I have twice traveled to Yale’s campus with others who would be affected by Northern Pass. Since Yale’s School of Forestry is the moral voice for Yale on environmental issues, I have requested a meeting with this school’s Dean both via email and in person.
While I was received warmly by students and the New Haven community, the Dean refused to engage. Even though Yale’s land manager is advocating for Northern Pass in the SEC hearings, Yale stands to make millions of dollars from the lease, and Yale’s cooperation is necessary for the development of Northern Pass, the Dean has said ” issues related to Northern Pass are not a Yale issue.” Thus far, she has refused to meet with me.
For many years, most of our residents were unaware of Yale’s activities in Coös County . Yale sets up shell corporations as the face of its endowment investments. In Northern New England, they hide behind a company called Bayroot, which owns the land leased to Northern Pass and the Granite Reliable wind farm, and a land manager, Wagner Forest Management. Until recently, we didn’t realize that Bayroot is 98.8% owned by one of the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious universities.
This arrangement has allowed Yale to extract millions of dollars from our county while obscuring its culpability–even when this wealth extraction is at fundamental odds with the university’s mission. Fortunately Yale cannot support Northern Pass without being held to account for it. Now that Yale must act in the light of day, we hope that it will respect our community and prioritize its core values over slightly more robust endowment growth.
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635