Sunday, December 22, 2013

White River NWR's Race Against Foreign Land Buyers

by Jim Taylor

A foreign buying spree of U.S. forest lands is underway.   A Sept 27, 2013 report from the USDA  documents the dramatic rise in foreign ownership of U.S. timberlands.  Foreign ownership of US timberlands  doubled from approximately 7 million acres in 2005 to 14 million acres in 2011.*   Arkansas  has 780,544 acres of land under foreign ownership.**   

AndersonTully/Forest Lands Group LLC., one of the largest private timber holding companies in the United States, has expressed interest in selling land to White River NWR, located in Southeast Arkansas.  The property, 70,000 acres of prime river bottom habitat, sits just South of the refuge’s border.


Currently the refuge is prohibited from making an offer since the property lies just outside the refuge’s current acquisition zone, so it has been just talk up to this point.  Yes, even if Anderson Tully/FLG offered it up at a  bargain price  or even to donate it, they would  be out of luck.  For this reason the refuge initiated a proposal last year to expand their acquisition zone to include this ecologically important forest.

The proposal has garnered enthusiastic support from Arkansas sportsman as well as businesses in the surrounding communities. Sportsman stand to benefit tremendously from the added hunting and fishing opportunities while area business will reap the added economic activity it will generate.

Though it will be a windfall both environmentally and economically to the region some  leaseholder /hunting-clubs within the area are disgruntled at the thought of their land owner, EVER having talks with a potential buyer.  While we might understand their plight,  their self serving efforts to scuttle the refuge’s proposed acquisition zone will not stop AndersonTully/FLG from selling.  The actions of the leaseholder/hunting-clubs have not only put them in direct conflict with the land owners best interest, but it could also put this  property at risk for easy pickings by foreign real estate investors.  
A fire sale on US real estate to
foreign buyers is underway

Yes, the potential to lose this property to foreign investors is very real. Consider the following. If the refuge is eliminated as a potential buyer, Anderson Tully/FLG’s ability to sell such a sizable block of forest will be greatly diminished. Obviously the market for 70,000 acres of flood prone bottomland is very limited.  Excluding the refuge from the buying process would open the door to foreign real estate investors who would swoop in to buy it cheaply.

You can bet that any foreign owners will not likely be the “good stewards” of our natural resources as Anderson Tully/FLG has proven to be over the years.

The US government tracks forest ,  agriculture, and other  real estate sales to foreign corporations/investors.      
* Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land through December 31, 2011, by the Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture.,  Figure 7, Trends in Foreign Holdings of Agricultural Land  by Type of Use for the Period 2001 - 2011

**. Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land through December 31, 2011, by the Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture., page 13, U.S. Agricultural Land holdings of Foreign Investors By State as of December 31, 2011.


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