NCSU deal to sell Hofmann Forest falls through
Posted December 5, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The Endowment Fund of North Carolina State University said Friday that a deal to sell the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest near the coast is off after the two firms planning to buy the land couldn't finalize the financial contingencies of the contract.
The research forest will continue to be owned by the endowment fund for the benefit of the university's College of Natural Resources, officials said, adding that the endowment board and the Natural Resources Foundation hope to find another buyer.
“The sole mission of the N.C. State Natural Resources Foundation is to benefit the College of Natural Resources, its students and its faculty, and the sale of Hofmann Forest has always been about that purpose," Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. "We will always strive to make strategic choices that provide the best educational opportunities for students.”
N.C. State had planned to sell 56,000 acres of Hofmann Forest to Resource Management Service of Alabama, a timber management firm, and the remaining 23,000 acres to Hofmann Forest LLC, an Illinois-based agribusiness firm that planned to develop part of the property.
The two firms would have paid a total of $131 million for the land.
The land in Hofmann Forest was bought in the 1930s for research and to provide income for N.C. State's forestry program, but university officials have said that the land isn't generating enough revenue and isn't being used very much anymore for research.
A group of N.C. State professors, foresters and environmentalists filed suit in September 2013, alleging that the sale would violate the state constitution's mandate of conserving public lands for public benefit. They argue that the school has downplayed the land's research value, as well as its environmental role, and that the endowment board didn't obtain public input on the proposed sale, as required under state environmental regulations.
"University leaders now have a window of opportunity to step back to the drawing board and do the right thing," Ron Sutherland, one of the leading opponents to the sale, said in a statement. "They can use an open process that works with the professors, students and locals who oppose a sale without proper protections on the forest’s use.”
If N.C. State is determined not to keep Hofmann Forest, Sutherland suggested the university either auction off an easement that would allow logging in the forest but prevent its development or selling the land to the U.S. Forest Service to link up with the nearby Croatan National Forest.