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Hofmann Forest for Sale

J.V. Hofmann and class measuring pine in reed bed at Hofmann Forest, about 1937. Photo courtesy Historical State, NCSU Libraries.

The board of directors of the Natural Resources Foundation has unanimously recommended that NC State sell the 80,000-acre Hofmann Forest, the largest forest in eastern North Carolina, to raise money to support programs in the College of Natural Resources.

CNR Dean Mary Watzin announced the decision in an email to alumni last week. The email was posted to the college’s website.

The forest is named for Julius Valentine Hofmann (1882-1965), the first person in the United States to earn a doctorate in forestry. In 1929 he was appointed head of the Department of Forestry at NC State, and then director of forestry in 1932. He helped to establish forest preserves in North Carolina, and after his retirement in 1948 continued to serve as manager of the North Carolina Forestry Foundation.

Responses (22 Comments)

  • Absolutely horrible decision. Sign the petition here and make your voices heard!

  • Mike Marks

    Such a shame to even consider selling a priceless jewel. Short term gains, massive future loss, why are the ones making decisions blind to this fact. Is the best forestry school in the nation more concerned about bricks then tree? You will be remembered for your position , good or bad.

  • Robin Harper

    This was a *unanimous* decision?? Where are the stewards of our forest at NC State? And was there no period allowed for other members of the NC State community to give feedback? Forgive me if there was and I missed it. I am horrified by this decision. Are we to look forward to 80,000 acres being plowed under for yet more cracker-box houses to be built and roads paved through? This is HORRIFYING. There has got to be an alternative to selling this precious piece of creation–”the largest forest in eastern NC”?!? Bad show, BOD.

  • Carolyn Mitkowski

    I can’t think of anything more ironic than this a Natural Resources Foundation wanting to sell a natural resource or a College of Natural Resources (all about conservation and preservation) condoning the sale of a forest.

    In this case an irreplaceable large forest asset in the State of North Carolina is in the hands of a foundation which has unanimously recommended selling it. This is just off-putting. This would be a great loss to the people of this state in exchange for the immediate financial wants of the College and its ambitions to grow students.

    Even though the Foundation has the legal right to sell the forest it does not have the moral right to do so. In a world where resources are dwindling and the current economic climate/culture of industry is to benefit at all costs this is a dangerous move no matter what the terms.

    This is a classic case of “Can’t see the forest for the trees”

    Sometimes enduring greatness is achieved with bold decisions and sometimes it is achieved through steadfast restraint. It should be obvious that in the case of every State natural resource those entrusted with them should use extreme restraint. Resources are finite…. Somehow other investments with the potential for great financial return are always abounding and offered in every economic climate.

    The foundation should revisit its recommendation to sell and remember supporting the College should not conflict with the core purpose that of providing people with natural resources knowledge and skill. Where will all these graduates work when all the forests are gone?

  • Fred Cubbage, Professor

    Hallowed Ground – the Hofmann:

    This decision to sell the Hofmann is a tragedy, which must be stopped. The Hofmann Forest has provided 79 years of teaching, research, and service to students in forestry and natural resources. Eight on campus classes each year use current data from the Hofmann; many others use cases from the Hofmann; more than 500 student/class hours visit the Hofmann each year; there are 7 graduate theses in process; and many long term, large scale projects there are irreplaceable. This is the only Coastal Plain forest we own, which is the region where about two-thirds of the forest industry in the state and South is located. The NC Forest Service trains to fight fires there every year; the American Tree Farm System holds meetings there often; and the vast majority of professional foresters in North Carolina oppose the sale.

    More than 400 very distinguished alumni and friends have opposed on the sale of the Hofmann in the on-line petition, including a former chair of the Forestry Foundation and premier business analysts and economists. There was only a pretense of faculty consultation before the decision to sell. The decision was made in secret by a Foundation Board at a meeting with no prior notice, no faculty or student representatives or speakers, no public agenda, no public minutes, and no way to contact the board members, or ever receive a reply if they are contacted.

    The faculty of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources just approved a resolution opposing the sale of the Hofmann after the surprise announcement. Fifty faculty and staff in the College of Natural Resources have signed a petition opposing the sale. The Jones-Onslow county communities were not consulted, and are aghast, including a former Forestry Foundation Board member.

    The Hofmann has generated a net average of about $2 million per year since 2000, and is still likely to beat stock market returns in the future, which is why many firms have tried to buy it. The now valuable forest has been built from a rugged wasteland to the crown jewel of the Department of Forestry and College of Natural Resources through eight decades of blood, tears, and lots of sweat.

    As the NCSU web site tonight promotes, the Hofmann is hallowed ground. Its loss, with no due process, no faculty, student, or community consideration, for ephemeral gains perceptible only to a secret foundation and selected university administrators, would be the most hypocritical example of stewardship imaginable, and permanent stain on the reputation of the College of Natural Resources and NC State University.

    Per the Land Ethic of Aldo Leopold (1948), “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
    The sale of the Hofmann would be tragically, monumentally, permanently wrong, violating all the principles and ethics that we espouse as a profession, college, and university.

    Fred Cubbage, Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professor, Forestry and Environmental Resources

  • T. G. Harris, Jr.

    This decision seems very short sighted. Dr. Hofmann’s vision was that the Forest could and would produce monetary and other values through good times and bad.

  • Andrew D. Bailey

    Dear Dean Watzin and Natural Resource Foundation Board,

    I attended school at NC State in part through forest-based scholarships. As an alumnus of NC State University, a professional forester, and a native of “The Old North State”, the proposed sale of the Hofmann Forest disappoints and concerns me. I find the language in the announcement of the decision that compares the revenue streams from the Hofmann to those of a “diversified portfolio of investments” especially concerning. Owning forest land is a fantastic part of a diversified portfolio. However, comparing the forest to a broad collection of investments at a specific point in time is invalid, as investment values can and do change over time. There will be times in the future when the revenue streams from the forest trump a diversified portfolio. Forest ownership is, and always has been, a long-term investment.

    Furthermore, the Hofmann should be seen as more than a trinket to be sold in the pursuit of financial stability. Surely the creative and successful members of the board can devise other methods to reach goals of financial stability and program growth while preserving ownership of the crown jewel of NC State’s forestry program and natural resource management programs. The Hofmann has a unique role as a teaching and research forest. It contains examples of most major forest types of the NC coastal plain. There are great examples for loblolly and longleaf pine management, wetland easement banking, T&E species issues, pocosin hydrology, fire ecology, and countless other relevant and useful teaching subjects. It also contains long-term research that cannot be picked up and moved to other sites. Any transfer of land ownership would only serve to discourage further research investment on the property, regardless of promises of easements for research and education. This type and quality of land holding would be impossible to duplicate in the fragmented ownership fabric of today’s rural North Carolina.

    The current Forest is unique and should be treated that way. Continuing the sale of the forest would indicate to me that the board lacks an understanding of the importance of forest management and the education of natural resource managers in North Carolina.

    Andrew Bailey
    BS Forest Management 2001
    MS Forestry 2003

  • Gina St.Phillips Ingraham

    This is horrifying. Where was the media coverage of this even being on the table? You might as well pay for programs in the College of Natural Resources by stopping the recycling program in order to save money. If I were a prospective student interested in a career in forestry or conservation this would rule out North Carolina completely. And how are you planning to justify this plan when recruiting professors? It’s a ridiculous and unconscionable decision!

  • Alex Thompson

    When I transferred into State to study Forest Management one of the most exciting things for me to hear about was that State actually owned timberland; a lot of timberland! I felt confident that I would be getting an education from a school that practiced what it preached. The Natural Resources Foundation is basically telling students like myself that forestry is a waste of time and that we are better off in Real Estate. No matter how short our rotation ages get, forest management is a long term commitment. If all foresters start taking easy quick money what will be left for the future? What kind of example are we setting for future generations?

  • Lucian

    In the short time I have been here at NC State, I have learned much about the Hofmann Forest. It is an iconic part of CNR. It is a magnificent ecological system. It is representative of what CNR should be all about. From a basic accounting perspective, the controversy boils down to this: it is providing about 50% of what CNR believes it should be getting from a $117MM asset. Here is my proposal: sell Block 10 ($50MM), maintain the current operations, and look to maximize the ag lands potential and mitigation credits. The combined return from these actions will result in the funds that CNR believes it needs. Subsequently, vigorously seek a $50-100MM easement on the remaining 75,000 acres.

  • Jamison Douglas

    There is an awful lot of focus on the poor decision in favoring the short term monetary gain from selling the Hofmann. Perhaps it is time for a new outlook on how we as a community might prosper from the Hofmann. An alternative use of the forest would be to create a local, hand-made wood products market – “Hofmann wood” – to be targeted to the University alumni, faculty, and students of the Triangle area. These products can be sold on the website Etsy at a price premium , as is done with several forests on the west coast which once faced the same fate as the Hofmann, and at a value far superior to the detached board foot. Alumni especially have clearly demonstrated their attachment to such a treasure. The endeavor would create local jobs and will give something to the alumni that really “wood” stick around.

  • David Robinson BS Forestry 1983

    To the sellers of the Hofmann Forest. Thank you for undoing a thus far 30 year career in promoting the positive attributes of forestry in the state of NC. When the university with the flagship Forestry school in the southeast and possibly the nation decides to liquidate an irreplacable, highly productive large tract of coastal plain woodlands, it speaks volumes to all landowners. It tells them that you need to sell your woodland with all the economic and intrinsic values attached and convert it to a portfolio of stocks and bonds. This is forestry extension by example and not such a good one.
    I am ashamed that a Forestry board could make this decision after which I suspect is a case of essentially “eating their children” by overharvesting since the last economic and forest products price decline. All to keep their budgets intact. If a school of our stature cannot afford to carry and nurture this resource on a sound economic and silviculture basis, I think it should be sold. We/you had our/your chance, but in the forgiving nature of most land and mother nature it is correctable.

  • Anonymous

    “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
    ― Aldo Leopold

  • Carter

    As an alumnus of NC State’s Forestry and Environmental Resources department and a current PhD student in NC State’s Collece of Natural Resources I am most troubled by the lack of consultation with students and faculty. This decision greatly impacts our research and learning opportunities in the Hoffman Forest. I do agree with Lucian’s suggestion to sell Block 10 and optimize ROI of remaining forest land. While the college and the university in general has an obligation to solvency it also has an obligation to tradition, to providing the best education possible, and to respecting the greater collegiate community enough to open the decision to input from faculty and students.

  • mike windsor

    Hoffman Forest is being sold to raise money for the College of Natural Resources?
    Isn’t that short sighted and counter to the mission of the department ?
    This is an awful decision.

  • I come from a logging family that at one time helped maintain the Hoffman forrest. Now I’m about to graduate from a community college with an Associate in Environmental Science Managemennt. It has been a dream to pursue my education at State with your Forrestry program. After reading about the proposed sale, of the most talked about timber that I’ve grown-up hearing about most of my life, I was deeply disappointed. I thought your University was different. I’ve always heard what an excellent Forrestry program you have and how I would learn so much. So far I’ve learned that you are not upholding what you say your program stands for and that’s not what I want to be about. I live about forty minutes from the beautiful Hoffman and all it’s wildlife within. My regret is that your decision will deprive future forrestry, environmental, and wildlife lovers the oppertunity to enjoy any of it’s wonders within. Shame on you. Maybe you could have offered those on-line classes and a hands-on instructor here, like was talked about in a meeting with you at our college a few years ago, and the people around our area who were interested in your classes but couldn’t move, could have taken the classes and provided some money for you. Hey, just another let down for me from State. Thanks.

  • George Maxwell

    Do not sell Hofmann Forest

    George Maxwell
    Class of 65

  • Michael Collins

    I come from a family that loves the outdoors. We live close to Huffman. Im a member of 1 of the hunting clubs in Huffman(deppee hunting club) One of the best places I ve ever hunted. Sad to hear it was for sale not many places left to hunt if they sale it.Hope they come up with another way to get there money. Thanks for reading PLEASE DON T SALE!!!

  • Michale Weston

    I hope it sells.

  • Arthur

    This was a backroom deal! Someone at NCSU is getting some money shoved it their pocketes.

  • Val McMillan

    Just what we need…more golf courses, strip malls and 45,000 acres of Monsanto backed GMO corn. And this is justified how? Oh yea, greed.

  • Craig Braye

    If the Republican controlled state government had not cut funding for education. N.C. State probably would not have to sell this jewel. Thank your political representatives on the state and national level.

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