NCSU agrees to sell research forest for $150M
Posted October 29, 2013
Updated October 30, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A North Carolina State University endowment announced Tuesday that it has agreed to sell Hofmann Forest for $150 million.
The 79,000-acre 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.
“The income generated annually by the investment of the sale proceeds will provide tremendous educational and research opportunities for the College of Natural Resources and its students,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement.
Jerry Walker, a third-generation agri-businessman who runs the family’s multi-state agriculture business based in Illinois, bought the forest and said he plans to maintain its primary use for timber and agricultural purposes. He also agreed to continue providing access to N.C. State students and faculty to conduct research.
“Hofmann Forest is a wonderful property with a long and storied connection to the communities of eastern North Carolina, and we are committed to preserving that legacy going forward,” Walker said in a statement.
University officials said they expect the proceeds of the sale to generate $6 million a year in revenue for the College of Natural Resources, which they said is more than triple the current annual yield from owning the property.
“As an asset, the forest’s full potential was not being realized,” Woodson said. “We have an obligation to our stakeholders – our students, faculty, staff and alumni – to ensure our colleges are positioned to provide a robust academic environment that attracts world-class faculty and the best and brightest students.”
A group of N.C. State professors, foresters and environmentalists has sued the university to block the sale, calling it "one of the most significant public conservation areas in North Carolina."
The lawsuit alleges that the sale 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.