Local News

Judge refused to block NCSU sale of research forest

Posted November 12, 2013 6:39 p.m. EST

The 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest in Jones and Onslow counties is the largest university-owned teaching and research forest in the world.

— A judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt by North Carolina State University professors, foresters and environmentalists to halt the pending sale of Hofmann Forest.

A university endowment said last month that it plans to sell the 79,000-acre forest in Jones and Onslow counties to an Illinois-based agribusiness company for $150 million.

Hofmann Forest 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.

University officials said they expect the proceeds of the sale to generate $6 million a year in revenue for the college, which they said is more than triple the current annual yield from owning the property.

Opponents filed a lawsuit in September to block the sale, alleging that it would violate the state constitution's mandate of conserving public lands for public benefit. The plaintiffs 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.

N.C. State officials argue that the sale didn't need to meet those rules because the land was owned by a private foundation and it wasn't state property.

A judge denied the plaintiff's request for e preliminary injunction in the case.