The Wisconsin Pine Lands of Cornell University

The Wisconsin Pine Lands of Cornell University

A provision of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 allowed Cornell University to acquire 500,000 acres of valuable timberland in northern Wisconsin. Although most land grant universities immediately sold the federal tracts that had been allocated to them, Cornell held the land to allow it to appreciate. While the university was guarding its rights as a trustee of this estate, dealing with the supervisors and tax collectors of several counties, and negotiating with lumbermen, it did not escape criticism for its role as an absentee landlord. As Paul Wallace Gates details in The Wisconsin Pine Lands of Cornell University, the university's perseverance paid off—the eventual sale of surface rights to the land yielded a five-million-dollar endowment and is regarded as one of the most successful episodes of land speculation in U.S. history.