Dear interim president Johnson
As you observed in your Nov. 22 press release, “The evaluation of operations of Wolf Pack Meats has become entwined with another project at the 1,049-acre Main Station Farm, the proposed rezoning of the 104-acre McCarran Strip into a Planned Unit Development, which will help protect the property’s value for the future.”
As recent public attention suggests, Wolf Pack Meats is an institution that is highly valued by the local community. The challenges you’ve articulated in making it viable are management questions that certainly can be addressed by the administration of a school “ranked in the top tier of the nation’s best universities,” meeting its responsibility to stay abreast of changing times. The management of Wolf Pack Meats, as you correctly point out, is a side issue. But the fate of Wolf Pack Meats is not unrelated to the issue of the proposed rezoning of the 104-acre parcel of the University Agricultural Corridor.
The many concerns with the proposed rezoning are articulated in a resolution that is presently before the student government and graduate student senates, as well as a statement of concern being prepared by a working group that represents the broader community that has recently responded to the news of the rezoning application. One of those concerns is, “What conflicts will arise when incompatible development on parcels immediately adjacent to a meat processing facility and other agricultural processes occur”? But there is a significant list of other reasonable concerns with the rezoning proposal:
1. The University of Nevada, Reno, Agricultural Corridor is a flood plain. The maintenance of an operable flood plain is critical to public protection and waterway health.
2. The wetlands and other natural habitat included in the UNR Farmland are valuable in terms of recreational opportunity and regional aesthetics, both to Reno’s residents and to visitors.
3. Rezoning UNR Ag Lands for industrial use is a move toward losing the 112-year-old teaching farm that is one of the last in the country, and a move toward closing the door to the possibility of an agriculture program reinvigorated to be relevant in an era of demand for safe, accessible, locally produced food.
4. Given the current state of the economy, might it be wise to question the wisdom of speculation on short term profits by selling off heritage lands without consideration of the value of those lands to future generations?
There is hope for moving beyond the consequences of short-sighted economic policies, and inertia in the face of social change. We’d like to believe that hope is being guarded by our institutions of higher education. Shouldn’t honoring that hope take precedence over kicking the financial can down the road?