A 2,020-acre forest in the heart of Mendocino County's redwood country is for sale in what forestry professionals say is a rare offering to the public.

"It's very unusual that a large tract of redwood land would come up for sale," said Frank Mileham, a registered forester and real estate appraiser with the Natural Resources Management Corp. in Eureka.

Larger redwood tracts have traded hands, but the transactions generally have occurred within the timber industry, sometimes the result of forced sales such as the bankruptcy of the former Pacific Lumber Co. in Humboldt County. They've also included purchases by conservation groups.

The offered property -- Redwood Creek Tree Farm northwest of Willits -- is expected to be sold during a sealed bid auction that ends Thursday.

The minimum bid is $4.79 million.

The trees on the land are about 40 to 60 years old and more than half are fast growing, said John Rosenthal, president of Realty Marketing/Northwest, which is conducting the sale.

"I call it green gold," Rosenthal said.

The land contains an estimated 22 million board feet of timber, 58 percent of it redwood, according to the auction brochure.

The land also has potential as a camp or retreat and could be used to gain conservation credits, he said.

Local forestry experts say the property's price tag is high for timber purposes and that it likely reflects development possibilities.

"That's not timberland value," said Greg Giusti, a forest adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Lake and Mendocino counties.

At roughly $2,350 per acre, the price is about twice what redwood timber properties have been selling for in recent years. And that was before the redwood market's recent decline, Giusti said.

Redwood is now selling for between $700 and $800 per thousand board feet, down from about $1,100 per thousand board feet a few years ago, he said.

That's if it sells at all.

"All the mill log yards are full. They're not selling," Giusti said.

The market for Douglas fir, selling for closer to $250 per thousand board feet, is even worse, he said.

Forestville consulting forester Nick Kent agrees that the price of the property is high for timber production.

"Whoever buys it at that price would have to have a domestic home site or recreational value added onto it," he said.

The property is located near the historic Skunk Train's stop halfway between Fort Bragg and Willits and includes remnants of a small sawmill, the brochure notes.

The property's owner is Chicago-based Congaree River LLC. The company purchased the land from the Masonite Corp. about 25 years ago, Rosenthal said.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com.