Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees for the Endowment Fund of NC State University has announced it has agreed to terms for the sale of the Hofmann Forest for $150 million ($1,898 per acre to a family-run, multi-state agriculture business based in Illinois and managed by Jerry Walker.
Proceeds from the sale will go into the endowment with an annual estimated return of $6 million. By contrast, income generated by forestry related activity on the property totaled just $861,000 in 2012.
The Walker family has indicated in the purchase agreement that students and faculty will have continued access to the forest for research, that they will keep the Hofmann name, and that a working forest will be maintained on the site (there is no mention of the size of the working forest).
It remains to be seen whether the sale will go forward. To prevent the sale, a group of North Carolinians filed a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees. The plaintiffs assert the Hofmann Forest is a unique and irreplaceable asset for the University and North Carolina. They claim that the:
- Board of Trustees failed to complete an assessment of the environmental impact of different alternatives to selling the Hofmann Forest
- Board of Trustees failed to seek public agency or citizen input as required by North Carolina's Environmental Protection Act (SEPA)
- Proposed sale of the Hofmann State Forest violates Article 14, Section 5 of the North Carolina constitution, which mandates the conservation and protection of public lands and waters for the benefit of the public
Commenting on the case, plaintiff, NCSU professor and former Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources head Fred Cubbage, noted, “The enduring mission of the Hofmann State Forest has been to teach and demonstrate our professional skills and principles of sustainable forestry and the land ethic and to practice what we teach in the unique Coastal Plain environment. There are many alternatives that were promoted by the Natural Resource Foundation before their ultimate vote to sell Hofmann Forest, such as conservation easements, partial land sales, or leases to the military, and these alternatives should be fully investigated and considered with agency and public input in a SEPA analysis before we decide the fate of this irreplaceable university educational asset.”
A Wake County judge has denied the request for a temporary restraining order, citing the lack of a sale contract or imminent sale. Now that a sale appears to be imminent, it is unclear what the next step will be, although a hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale until a court can review its legality is expected next. An additional case is also pending in the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Show Your Support
Individuals who wish to voice their opposition to the sale may sign this petition or contact university chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson at email@example.com or (919) 515-2191. Financial donations to offset the legal costs of the case are also appreciated. Individuals who are willing or able to contribute financially may contact Ron Sutherland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 641-0060.
Funds received in excess of legal costs will go towards the Sam Hughes and Don and Jean Steensen scholarship funds at NCSU. Periodic updates are available via the Save Hofmann Forest Facebook page.
About the Hofmann State Forest
The Hofmann Forest is the largest state-owned forest land in North Carolina. Covering 80,000 acres in Jones and Onslow counties, the forest is the largest teaching, research and demonstration forest in the world. The College of Natural Resources at NC State University has managed the forest since forestry department founding chairman Julius "Doc" Hofmann helped acquire the forest in 1934. In order to place the forest under public ownership, the Hofmann State Forest was transferred to the NC State University Endowment Fund in 1977. The Hofmann Forest provides approximately $2 million per year in net revenues to the College of Environment and Natural Resources.
This post was updated from its original version to reflect the sale announced on October 29.
I too graduated from NC State University School of Forestry. As a student, I cruised timber on the Hoffman along with other research projects.I still can’t get over the fact that the University decided to sell the forest. They will never be able to replace it. As I’m writing this comment the sale is a done deal; what a shame.