Group sues over proposed sale of NCSU forest

Posted September 27, 2013

— A group of professors, foresters, landowners and wildlife conservationists have filed a lawsuit to block a North Carolina State University foundation from selling a 79,000-acre forest in the eastern part of the state.

Hofmann State Forest, in Jones and Onslow counties, has been owned and managed for the benefit of N.C. State’s College of Natural Resources for nearly 80 years. Officials said it is the largest university-owned teaching and research forest in the world.

"Given its immense size and its strategic location linking Croatan National Forest to additional core protected lands to the north and south, Hofmann State Forest is clearly one of the most significant public conservation areas in North Carolina," said Ron Sutherland, a conservation scientist at Wildlands Network and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

N.C. State announced in April that the Endowment Fund of North Carolina State University, which has held title to the forest since 1977, had agreed to sell the forest, but the buyer and the terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

A Wake County judge on Wednesday denied a temporary restraining order to halt the sale after lawyers from the university and the state Attorney General's Office argued that there was no deal in place to sell the forest and that any sale wasn't imminent.

N.C. State spokesman Brad Bohlander said university officials believe the suit is without merit, maintaining that the foundation has followed all laws, regulations and processes.

"This has been a long, inclusive process that has involved many opportunities for dialogue from those in support and opposition," Bohlander said in a statement.

The plaintiffs said they still plan to seek an injunction barring any future sale, arguing that selling Hofmann Forest would violate the state constitution's mandate of conserving public lands for public benefit. They also maintain that the foundation's board failed to follow state environmental regulations requiring input from public agencies or citizens on the proposal or to consider any alternatives to selling the forest.

“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," Frederick Cubbage, the former head of N.C. State's Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "These alternatives should be fully investigated and considered with agency and public input ... before we decide the fate of this irreplaceable university educational asset.”

Bohlander said a sale of the forest could be in the public interest.

"Any net proceeds of a potential sale of the Hofmann Forest could provide unsurpassed opportunities to expand academic programs, promote research opportunities and increase scholarships for the benefit of the college, students and faculty," he said.


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  • IPayYouPay Sep 30, 2013

    ....and this, my friends, is what it boils down to - selling off your land to pay the high price of salaries. Yes, face it. NCSU is selling out. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

  • disgusted2010 Sep 27, 2013

    Interesting comment given the Governor nor the General Assembly has anything to do with this. NCSU is the seller not the Governor.

    Reading is fundamental. I was making a comparison of NCSU to your wonderful leaders.

  • disgusted2010 Sep 27, 2013

    disgusted, That's NC State University that wants to do this, not the GA or governor.

    And it seems like a bad idea to me, there is a lot of government owned land that could be (SHOULD be) sold, but this piece of forest doesn't appear one of them.

    I did not say that the Governor or G/A was doing it. I said its about as shortsighted as anything these excuses for leaders are doing. I was comparing the idea to something our pitiful leaders would do.

  • dlnorri Sep 27, 2013

    I am sure someone at the U thinks they need the short term cash... But I hope they wise up and keep this property. They (US) will never get another tact like that, and it does provide a steady source of income as a managed forest, although timber and pulp prices are down now; they will go back up one day.

  • unc70 Sep 27, 2013

    I grew up near Hofmann Forest. Selling it to pulp and paper interests would be criminal. The foundation which had controlled it was merged with pulp and paper foundation, then the professional foresters was replaced by those with business interests on the P&P side of things. No a single forester remains on the board.

    The only "buyers" who might be acceptable would be one of the land conservancy groups.

    Whatelseisnew, how can you post so often and be so out of touch with common sense and the responsible stewardship expected by the people of NC. This issue is not about partisan politics; it is about greed and self interests rather than what is best for all the people, now and future generations.

  • whoodathunk Sep 27, 2013

    NCSU prefers to go into the unauthorized (and illegal) real-estate development business rather than maintain its authorized mission. Hence, it greedily gobbled up 1,100 acres known as Centennial Campus (which remains mostly unused) and continues to buy up more real estate around campus (bulldozing local businesses) -- even while selling real estate that advances its mission, such as Hoffman forest. Just take a look at the Umstead Act and it becomes apparent that NCSU considers itself above the law.

  • WRAL_USER Sep 27, 2013

    Yea, 80000 acres of "public" land should be sold at the "owners" whim, shortsightedness, latest budget shortfall, etc... Should be real easy to get back...

    Returned to the taxpayer... HA, HA, HA HA, HA... never going to happen... All that will happen here is that money goes to something no one ever sees and NCSU loses a valuable resource that it can never get back....

  • whatelseisnew Sep 27, 2013

    "And it seems like a bad idea to me, there is a lot of government owned land that could be (SHOULD be) sold, but this piece of forest doesn't appear one of them."

    Actually that is taxpayer owned property that the government should sell AND any proceeds should be returned to the taxpayers.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 27, 2013

    "This sale is about as short sighted as anything we could expect from the current General Assembly or Governor. It's all about the almighty dollar, business and our "brand."

    Interesting comment given the Governor nor the General Assembly has anything to do with this. NCSU is the seller not the Governor.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 27, 2013

    they should not need ANY input or permission to sell this property. Amazing how many people have fascist leanings in this country.