Gov. Pat McCrory has stepped into a dispute over North Carolina State University’s planned sale of the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest, requesting that the buyers allow Marines from Camp Lejeune to continue using the forest for training.
From WCTI News:
The Republican governor met with the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission at 2:45 p.m. at MCAS Cherry Point in Havelock. The Governor created the commission in August 2013 to help address issues of need at military bases.
The governor and commission announced a number of goals and priorities at the meeting.
In reference to priority six, “Maintain Hoffman Forest as a military training area,” the Governor says he has sent a letter to the potential buyers of the land. The potential sale of Hoffman Forest by North Carolina State University has been a hot topic in Eastern Carolina, as protestors fear the sale of the undeveloped land could put it at risk for being used for commercial purposes. The forest is used for military training, and in the letter to the potential buyers, the Governor says he has requested for the land to still be used by the military for training opportunities.
Our Reaction to NCSU’s Orwellian “Hofmann Facts” website
Ron Sutherland and Fred Cubbage
September 14, 2014
Reading NCSU’s version of events on their new “Hofmann Facts” website, one would get the impression that the University has never done anything wrong, secretive, or otherwise reprehensible during their ongoing attempt to privatize Hofmann Forest, the largest tract of state-owned land in North Carolina. Mostly glaringly, they completely omit any mention of corn farmer Jerry Walker (or his daughter the Purdue alumnus), the leaked Hofmann Forest LLC/Walker prospectus, or the intensive farming and development plans that were contained therein. Nor do they devote any space to discussing the fact that they pretended to be shocked when that prospectus emerged and it revealed that the corn farmer they were signing the forest over to had in fact prepared plans for converting the land into cornfields.
NCSU also fails to mention the numerous times that various University leaders have misrepresented the truth over the past year and half with bald statements such as A. they weren’t thinking of selling Hofmann Forest outright, only an easement (emailed to faculty three days before the outright sale was announced), B. Hofmann Forest is private land (despite the letter from the Attorney General stating clearly it is owned by the State and thus not taxable), C. the Hofmann sale wasn’t imminent (told to a Judge a mere month before the sale agreement was proudly announced), D. sale opponents would like the Hofmann sale agreement when we saw it (why would we like a plan to sell the forest to a corn farmer/developer?), E. selling the forest with an easement was a strict criteria for the sale (as told to concerned alumni who wrote the University about Hofmann), F. the Hofmann sale agreement with the Walkers represented a working forest easement (not true, but told anyway to the NCSU Student Senate when they were considering opposing the sale), and G. they never said the Hofmann Forest sale would include an easement (when all else fails…). Please see our detailed Hofmann Forest timeline (updated version attached) for an accounting of many of these statements and a factual contradiction of many of the defenses NCSU attempts to raise in their misleading “Hofmann Facts” storyline.
They also seem to be pretending that the revised sale plan is somehow an intentional move by NCSU to improve the sustainability of the Hofmann Forest sale, which if true would help convince a skeptical public that progress was being made to address the grievances of sale opponents. Actually, our current understanding is that the Walkers themselves recruited RMS to step into the deal to take on the lion’s share of the property and associated financial risks, and we speculate the Walkers did so out of desperation when faced with: the ongoing wetlands investigations by the EPA, our increasingly vigorous public opposition efforts, our ongoing lawsuit headed to the NC Court of Appeals, and perhaps most importantly, the collapse of the price of corn (which has fallen by 2/3rds from its peak at the point when the Walker’s decision to purchase Hofmann Forest was made).
We would be happy to exploit the message from NCSU that the new deal is somehow more consistent with the values of the College of Natural Resources, by pointing out that this implies they are finally admitting the old deal that they signed and then defended for months truly fell far short of the criteria that were listed for the sale. But that gives the University too much credit for trying to do the right thing here, when the reality appears to be that the parties involved are panicking and the new deal is a last ditch effort to salvage the sale at a reduced price. It also gives the new deal with RMS and the Walkers too much credit for being a transcendental improvement with respect to environmental outcomes, when unfortunately that is not the case. We have prepared a separate statement addressing the inadequacies of the new sale agreement (attached).
After the Hofmann sale was announced in January 2013, Dean Watzin was asked to meet with forestry faculty and students three or four times, and did so. At no time did she ever call a College wide meeting to discuss the Hofmann and hear views, debate, or discussion. And in any emails or web posts, she always maintained that the Hofmann would be maintained as a working forest. So overall, the public input and consultation (1) consisted of 4 pretend pre-sale announcements meetings and a few post announcement meetings called by faculty, where (2) outright falsehoods about partial monetization and working forest protections were promised; and (3) massive opposition to any sale was totally ignored. In fact, the final deal of total sale to agriculture business firm with zero forest protections was NEVER mentioned by the Deans, and totally opposed by all persons at the few pretend meetings held (NOT “dozens”). So the faculty, student, and public consultation was a complete, carefully orchestrated, deceitful charade, from start to finish, where all public input was ignored, and the Foundation and Deans did not even do what they promised to do in every meeting and communication.
In terms of additional rebuttals, it is worth pointing out that the NCSU “Hofmann Facts” website raises straw man arguments by claiming that sale opponents view the forest as “pristine”, and by asserting that sale opponents were predicting that 2/3rds of the property were likely to be converted to urban developments. Under the original deal signed last October with the Walkers, it was not just likely but highly probable that 2/3rds of the forest would have been replaced by 45,000 acres of cornfields and 9000 acres of urban development. With the new sale agreement revealed this month, such an outcome is less likely perhaps but is still entirely possible given the lack of legal protections afforded to the forest.
NCSU also claims that the Hofmann Forest was not used enough to justify keeping the land, with the majority of CNR students no longer visiting the Forest. The faculty who do use the forest provided a detailed 8-page list of Hofmann uses to the Dean and NR Foundation before the sale, which was apparently not distributed before the vote to sell. Every one of the 80 or so NCSU forestry students attends classes that visit the Hofmann at some time, and many other College students visit it as well and do research there. There is even a house there just for student use. The Hofmann is the only production Forest CNR has in the Coastal Plain, where 2/3rds of the forest industry in the South is located. On the other hand, there only about 30 students who ever use the Wood Products lab on campus—the smallest minority of all CNR programs—and very few persons use the pulp mill or are in the golf program. With more than 1000 students in CNR, there is no single teaching facility that is used by a majority of CNR students with the exception of the classroom buildings themselves.
Could Hofmann Forest be used more by the University? Absolutely, but that would require full and convenient access to students and faculty from numerous departments, and enthusiasm for such use on the part of University and Foundation leaders. The reality over the past few decades has been that educational use of Hofmann Forest has been actively discouraged, by a combination of the timber company that held a long-term lease on the land and at times excluded faculty altogether, a somewhat parochial Forestry Foundation that tried to prevent its control over Hofmann from being usurped by the College, and a series of Deans of the College of Natural Resources who were scheming to sell the forest and saw little reason to invest resources into promoting the truly immense scale of usage that a 79,000-acre university field station could sustain. Despite these challenges, a number of faculty still made the concerted effort needed to keep Hofmann Forest in use for educational purposes, fulfilling as best as they could the dreams of Doc Hofmann when he purchased the forest for the benefit of the University.
NCSU also points out several times that income from the forest has declined, but fails to mention this decline is due to intense overcutting of the forest that was conducted during the recent Great Recession. During the recession the university and College endowment funds’ stock investments performed quite poorly, and leaders attempted to rely more heavily on Hofmann Forest to make up the difference. Eventually they ran out of sufficient timber to cut, and the reduction in income that inevitably followed conveniently allowed them to claim that the forest’s financial yields were declining (when actual sustainable yield estimates suggest $2 million/year could be achieved over the long-term). NCSU also forgets to mention any risk of investing the proceeds from selling the Hofmann into the very stock market whose catastrophic collapse is still so fresh in all of our minds.
NCSU’s website notes that there is an ongoing EPA review of the Hofmann—but fails to mention that the purpose of the review is to determine if the Natural Resources (NR) Foundation management violated Section 404 dredge and fill permit requirements under the Clean Water Act. So the NR Foundation could be subject to major fines, or at least have to remediate (at potentially great expense) any legal transgressions it made.
NCSU’s propaganda page does admit there is a lawsuit—which it maintains is without merit—but does not tell anybody what it is about. Our lawsuit is simple. We observe that the Hofmann Forest is State land, and that as such the university should perform an environmental analysis as required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Once alternatives have been identified and the public has had a chance to review and comment on them per SEPA requirements, the University must then select a conservation-minded alternative for the forest in order to be consistent with the environmental policy so clearly stated by the NC Constitution.
The NR Foundation and the NCSU Endowment Fund have paid no property taxes on Hofmann for 80 years because they say the land is public, and the Attorney General wrote a letter in 1980 specifically stating that Hofmann was owned by the State of North Carolina (see link above, 1980). One would think these concrete facts would prevent university leaders from ever claiming that Hofmann Forest is private land, but we suppose shame is sometimes a difficult emotion to invoke in certain individuals.
The Hofmann plaintiffs include a professor, a conservationist, a local resident, a former President of the Forestry and Natural Resource Foundations, and a professor emeritus and alum who was deeply involved in the Forest hydrology. We of course should be able to provide input into the decision, and it is ironic the university is trying to prove that we cannot when they say they have had open consultation and listened to input about the sale.
The NR Foundation and NCSU also should leap at the chance to analyze the environmental impacts of the sale; that is what we say we teach in the College of Natural Resources. Repudiating the importance of environmental and social analysis is repudiating the mission of the College and University, as well as violating the State Environmental Policy Act and the NC Constitution. So by countering the lawsuit, NCSU is essentially trying to prove that what we teach is worthless if they or someone else can make more money by ignoring it. And by having their lawyers argue that the sale of the forest will result in zero damage to the natural environment, the University and Foundation are gravely insulting the expertise of large numbers of NCSU faculty (including the Dean herself!) and graduate students who could attest otherwise.
Our lawsuit simply says NCSU should follow SEPA as is required of all state agencies including the institutions of the UNC system, and we should keep and manage the world’s largest educational forest unless a thorough, open, and inclusive analysis says that we should not. The Hofmann Forest is the largest, most valuable piece of State property in North Carolina. Keep it green.
Notice: It’s OK to print this e-mail. Paper is a plentiful, biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, sustainable product made from trees. Producing paper and other forest products utilizes a renewable natural resource and provides jobs and income for millions of Americans. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees today than we had 100 years ago!
Are Save Hofmann Forest advocates happy with the new deal?
We appreciate the participation of RMS in the new Hofmann Forest sale agreement, as we think RMS decided to become involved at least in part because they also value the benefits of keeping much of Hofmann Forest intact for the benefit of the region. RMS does have a good reputation of working with conservation partners in eastern North Carolina.
However, Hofmann Forest is public land now, and the public will be losing a major forest asset if Hofmann is sold to any for-profit buyer, including RMS. The NC State University community still loses their incredible world-class educational resource that they’ve held for 80 years, and does so against the wishes of most faculty, staff, students, and alumni. And Walker Ag Group and their unknown co-investors in Hofmann Forest LLC still get 23,000 acres of Hofmann Forest in the new plan. If they are able to complete the purchase this time, we expect the Walkers to quickly pursue whatever uses for Hofmann that would return the highest yields.
We would certainly rather see RMS end up with the entire tract of land, than have the new agreement proceed (which immediately results in Doc Hofmann’s magnificent legacy being broken up into smaller pieces). But RMS is still a business and they will answer to their investors first and foremost, (not the citizens of NC) when making their decisions about what parts of the forest to resell to others who may develop, farm, mine, or otherwise disturb the land (including Walker Ag Group). It’s worth noting that nothing in the new sale agreement appears to prevent RMS from merely turning around and selling their share of the forest back to Hofmann Forest LLC to pursue the large-scale agricultural plans that were outlined in the leaked prospectus. Even worse, if RMS drops out of the deal for lack of funds or other reasons, Hofmann Forest LLC is still entitled to purchase the entire forest.
Also, consider this thought experiment: if another large tract of existing public forest (such as Croatan or Pisgah National Forest) were suddenly placed up for sale, of course we would fight such a plan tooth and nail. If the relevant government leaders then announced a new plan where only 1/4 of the forest would be destroyed for sure, and the rest only “possibly”, would anyone call that a victory for conservation? No, absolutely not, that would be a huge net loss of public forestland that citizens would find unacceptable. That is the alternative being proffered by NCSU now with their revised Hofmann sale agreement, and we continue to reject their flawed premise that some loss of public forest is a necessary outcome of this situation.
Does the new agreement affect our lawsuit to stop the sale of Hofmann Forest?
We are gravely concerned that NCSU may be trying to use this new agreement to generate media spin that the environmental impact of the sale has been mitigated or even completely avoided. Nothing could be further from the truth. First and foremost, the new agreement legally protects zero acres of the forest, just like the old agreement that was signed last October. Just like the old agreement, there is language about intentions of pursuing an easement deal with the military or other parties, but this potential easement deal is described with vague phrases such as covering “all or portions of” the area of Hofmann Forest north of US 17, and it will only take place “if an agreement or agreements satisfactory to purchaser…” can be reached.
Even if RMS keeps most of the 56,000 acres they would receive from this Hofmann deal in timber for the next 10 years, that will still leave out 10-20,000+ acres that could be immediately degraded as a direct result of this deal (12,000 acres of the Hofmann Forest LLC allotment are part of the large “Big Open” pocosin and are at the moment legally unsuitable for development or agricultural conversion, although this could change with political circumstances in Washington DC).
In particular, the ~10,000 acres of Hofmann Forest that are located close enough to US 17 to have high development value (including the 4000 acres of Block 10 and parts of Blocks 8 and 9) are at high risk of being destroyed by urban development. This acreage may be small relative to the enormous size of the entire property, but losing 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat and forested watersheds is incontrovertibly a significant environmental impact by any measure. Imagine losing a public forest twice the size of Umstead State Park! That scale of destruction is what is at stake here even in the short term if this deal is completed, and the loss of Block 10 alone would block the critical flow of wildlife between Hofmann and Camp Lejeune.
Additionally, there are no guarantees that RMS will keep the land that is further away from the highway intact over the short or long terms, their reputation notwithstanding (and the applicability of state environmental laws simply cannot be construed to hinge upon the reputation of a private for-profit business that is on the receiving end of an important governmental decision). We still don’t know for sure about the jurisdictional wetland status of most of Hofmann’s 79,000 acres, and therefore much of the forest may be open for development or agricultural conversion. Quite a few timber companies have sold substantial acreages of pine forest in the southeast to developers in recent years, and without an easement in place RMS will be tempted to do the same.
NCSU keeps making the patently absurd claim that existing County zoning laws protect Hofmann Forest from being impacted by the sale. This is their direct attempt to undercut our lawsuit, but any reasonable observer knows that zoning regulations in North Carolina are very rarely successful at stopping new development from occurring. And even with the current zoning in Onslow County (Jones County apparently has no zoning regulations!) much of the forest can already be converted to row crop agriculture, with devastating impacts on wildlife and water quality. The sale to private owners without full forest easement protection is the ultimate decision that would make Hofmann vulnerable to these changes.
Although NCSU would like the Court of Appeals to think that any impacts of the sale are speculative at best, the Court and the public should keep in mind that NCSU and the Natural Resources Foundation (the Defendants in our lawsuit) provided potential Hofmann buyers with a 9000-acre plan for urban development! This plan is what surfaced in the leaked prospectus of Hofmann Forest LLC in November of 2013. Preparing and distributing that development plan was an open admission by NCSU and the Natural Resources Foundation that considerable environmental damage was likely as a result of the Hofmann sale, and the new sale agreement does nothing to change that fact.
Certain NCSU leaders have also made the dubious claim that the Marine Corps would simply not allow Hofmann Forest to be developed. At the same time, however, they are quick to admit that Block 10 will be developed, and Block 10 is the closest part of Hofmann Forest to Camp Lejeune! As Google Maps and our own recent aerial tour of the Hofmann Forest region reveal, the Marine Corps has done little to constrain the growth of suburbs that are now encroaching around Hofmann Forest, Camp Lejeune, and Croatan National Forest. The military has apparently been encouraged for some time to purchase a conservation easement on Hofmann Forest and yet they have failed to act, most likely for lack of funds. Although we certainly hope the Marine Corps will take some action to keep large parts of Hofmann Forest undeveloped, in the end the military may simply not be able to afford to protect the most valuable parts of Hofmann Forest along US 17.
Thus the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the NC Constitution still apply to the sale of Hofmann Forest. NCSU, which is fully aware that it is subject to SEPA (and has issued policy memos to that effect) needs to prepare a full environmental impact statement regarding the potential direct and indirect environmental damages that could be caused by the sale of Hofmann Forest, and the public should be given ample opportunity to provide comments as per SEPA requirements. Then, to comply with the NC Constitution (which Chancellor Woodson swore in his oath of office to uphold) NCSU must pursue alternatives for Hofmann Forest that are fully consistent with our State’s Constitutional policy to conserve our natural resources.
What do we want to see happen instead with Hofmann Forest?
We remain firmly convinced that the only ethically defensible and legally correct pathway forward is for NCSU to cancel the Hofmann sale until a credible Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared and alternatives that are compatible with environmental conservation have been identified and selected.
There are three alternatives that we are already well familiar with that would prevent environmental damage in this situation: (1) NCSU keeps the forest and does not sell (or only sells an easement directly), (2) NCSU sells a working forest easement directly on the entire property and then sells the forest to a buyer who would be legally restricted by the easement contract, or (3) NCSU sells the forest outright to a genuine conservation organization or government conservation agency, with a legally binding agreement that the forest will remain intact and protected. Of these options, 1 and 3 are most preferred, as the land would stay in public hands (or in the hands of a conservation organization which would very likely transfer the land back to the public anyway) and be open to enhanced public access.
If NCSU keeps the land we would like to see a permanent working forest easement sold as quickly as possible to prevent Hofmann Forest from being sold again without protection. We also want foresters, conservationists, and local stakeholders reappointed to the Natural Resources Foundation Board, which was mandated in their bylaws, and evaded in the recent attempt to sell the forest. After the sale of a working forest easement relieves some of the financial pressure on the College and the forest, the reconstituted Natural Resources Foundation Board should place a high priority on encouraging more NCSU faculty from a number of departments to use the forest, while at the same time opening the tract up for public recreation.
Option 2 could be considered as a last resort, and at that point we would welcome a respected timber company such as RMS to buy the land, but only AFTER a working forest conservation easement is in place. Even then our hope would be that the land would quickly return to public ownership once sufficient funds could be raised to repurchase the tract.
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker has made an excellent case that the State of North Carolina can and should pursue the necessary steps to keep Hofmann Forest in public ownership. If NCSU doesn’t want the land, which is by no means a true statement if you actually talk to faculty, students, staff and alumni, then the NC General Assembly should make arrangements to turn the property into a state forest, state gameland, or state park, and compensate the NCSU Endowment Fund appropriately over a period of several years. Such a move would protect water quality, enhance wildlife populations, provide generations of citizens with outdoor recreation opportunities, and buffer the important training mission at Camp Lejeune.
We would welcome the chance to sit down with NCSU, the Marine Corps, RMS, and other parties to discuss creative options for achieving one of the three alternatives we’ve outlined above. A talented and well-respected mediator could be selected to help facilitate this dialog and speed the process along towards an outcome that could achieve some level of consensus support across North Carolina, and which would meet the standards of our robust environmental laws. Hofmann Forest deserves nothing less.
Dear Friends of Hofmann Forest,
Shortly after I sent you an email last week, we found out that NCSU had negotiated a new sale agreement for Hofmann Forest. The new agreement proposes to split the property in two, with RMS (a timber company) paying $105 million for 56,000 acres, and Hofmann Forest LLC (corn farmer Jerry Walker and his co-investors) paying $25.85 million for 23,000 acres.
Later in the week, NCSU also unveiled a new website where they attempt to present their own rosy (Orwellian?) version of events related to the Hofmann Forest sale.
We have prepared several documents in response to these events, and we encourage you to read them (links below).
Here are three key facts to keep in mind about the new agreement:
1. there is still no language in the sale agreement establishing a working forest easement on Hofmann Forest, or even requiring that such an easement be established. The easement plan continues to be left to the discretion of the buyers and the military and other parties.
2. the new sale agreement does include clear language (Sections 5.3 and 5.4) allowing the entire property to be purchased by Hofmann Forest LLC (the Walkers) in the event RMS backs out of the deal at any point prior to closing. The sale agreement indicates RMS will pursue timber management on its portion of the forest, but the agreement also does not preclude RMS from immediately selling any or all of its portion of Hofmann Forest to a developer or to Walker Ag Group.
3. NCSU cannot claim that any environmental damage that could be caused by the sale is merely speculative, as NCSU and the Natural Resources Foundation are the ones who commissioned the urban development plans for Block 10 that they themselves went on to distribute to potential Hofmann buyers! (and which appeared in the leaked Hofmann Forest LLC prospectus last November).
Links to find out more:
1. please read the documents above, and then please continue to write letters to the editor of your favorite NC newspapers pointing out the deficiencies in any plan by NC State University to sell Hofmann Forest without first evaluating the environmental impacts and letting the public have our say.
2. pat yourself on the back – thanks to your efforts, we have NCSU on the ropes on this issue and their putative buyers are getting desperate about the prospects of the sale ever happening – keep it up and we’ll win completely!
3. the events last week admittedly distracted us a bit from protest planning – but if you live in Kinston, Greenville, New Bern, Wilmington, Durham/Chapel Hill, Jacksonville, Winston Salem/Greensboro, or Raleigh, and can help with organizing any kind of rally or gathering this weekend, please respond to this email with “protest help” in the subject line. At the very least, we have hundreds of new Hofmann Forest yard signs to distribute and we would love to arrange plans for sites in each of those cities where people who still need a sign can pick one up.
Thanks for all of your help!
For the forest,
Ron Sutherland, Ph.D.
NCSU Biology ’99
Comprehensive Timeline of Key Events and Issues Related to Hofmann Forest
September 14, 2014 – V10
Prepared by Ron Sutherland, email@example.com and Fred Cubbage, firstname.lastname@example.org
1934 – J.V. “Doc” Hofmann, the founding Dean of NCSU’s School of Forestry, sells bonds to allow the newly-created Forestry Foundation to purchase a 79,000-acre tract of land in Jones and Onslow Counties in eastern North Carolina. He begins the long process of paying off the bonds with income from timber sales from the property. His goals for buying the land were to provide a demonstration forest to benefit forestry education, and to generate revenue to support his School of Forestry. He established the Forestry Foundation to hold the deed to the land, as he didn’t trust the university not to try to sell the forest for the cash.
November, 1972 – In the general statewide election, with Presidential, US Senate, and Gubernatorial races on the ballot, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly (87%) vote yes to approve an amendment to the NC Constitution that states “It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry…” During the buildup to the election the amendment (now Article 14 Section 5) is referred to as the “Environmental Bill of Rights”.
1977 – The Forestry Foundation, under pressure from Jones County to pay property taxes, decides to transfer the deed for Hofmann Forest to the Endowment Fund of NC State University in order to clearly make it public, state land, with the stipulation that all income from the property must continue to support the College of Forestry at NCSU, or else the land will revert back to the Forestry Foundation.
1980 – Attorney General Rufus Edmisten issues a letter to Jones County stating clearly that Hofmann Forest is land owned by the State of North Carolina, and thus not subject to property taxes.
September 28, 1983 -the Forestry Foundation “burns the mortgage”: the debt on the Hofmann Forest was paid off (Hofmann Forest: A Narrative History of the North Carolina Forestry Foundation, 1970-2008, p. 29). After that, the property began to slowly build the contributions of income it gave to the College of Forestry at NCSU, building to moderate amounts of less than $500,000 per year through the 1990s.
1988 – Wendell Murphy donates $100,000 to the campaign of Harold “Bull” Hardison for Lt. Governor in NC, vastly exceeding the $4000 limit, but the donation isn’t detected until after the statute of limitations has passed. Murphy was later quoted “And I have no apologies for any support I’ve ever given Sen. Hardison. If he was running today, I’d support him again.” Hardison sponsored a number of bills reducing environmental regulations and tax liabilities for hog farms.
1990-1995 – hog production in North Carolina triples to 15 million animals by 1995, with 1 million hogs in Duplin County alone (most of which belong to Wendell Murphy)
1993 – Wendell Murphy leaves the NC Senate after voting 7 times to reduce pollution regulations on hog farming operations
1993-1996 – Wendell Murphy serves his first term on the Board of Trustees of NCSU
1996 – NC State Senator Tony Rand is named as one of the top five recipients of hog industry lobbying money. The Murphy Family donates heavily to legislators and to then-Governor Jim Hunt.
1999-2007 – Wendell Murphy serves his second term on the Board of Trustees of NCSU. The new arena for NCSU basketball and Carolina Hurricanes hockey is very nearly named for him, but the deal falls through when the City of Raleigh objects that Murphy’s contribution is too small.
1999-2000 – Wendell Murphy sells Murphy Farms to Smithfield Foods, after a major depression in the hog farming industry
2001 – 2002 – Larry Nielsen arrives as Dean of the College of Natural Resources at NCSU. Nielsen soon argues that if the Hofmann Forest is a $100 million asset, it should generate several million a year in proceeds for the College, or the Forestry Foundation should sell it and invest in the stock market, reopening an old debate about the merits of keeping the forest. Hofmann timber harvests did increase shortly after that in order to generate more income. Note that Dean Eric Ellwood also proposed selling the forest as well in 1983, which was strongly rejected by a Forestry Foundation vote (Hofmann Forest: A Narrative History of the North Carolina Forestry Foundation, 1970-2008, p. 91).
2004 – Randy Woodson is promoted to serve as Dean at Purdue University’s School of Agriculture.
2005 – 2007 – Wendell Murphy serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund at NCSU, the group that holds the deed to Hofmann Forest. He was also Chair of the NCSU Board of Trustees at the time.
January, 2005- Larry Nielsen is promoted to NCSU Provost, Robert Brown is hired to be the new Dean of the College of Natural Resources.
2008 – The board of the Forestry Foundation is convinced to proceed with a merger with the much smaller (in terms of endowment value) Pulp and Paper Foundation, with the clear expectation that foresters would retain a majority control over the resulting Natural Resources Foundation. David Ashcraft, the Executive Director of the Pulp and Paper Foundation, becomes the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Foundation. The new NR Foundation Board agreement stated that foresters or wood products representatives should comprise a majority of the Board members. By 2012, only four persons with (decades old) forestry degrees remained on the board, and none were registered or practicing as foresters.
Key question – if the Forestry Foundation was truly duped into a bad merger deal, could that serve as grounds for a lawsuit alleging either that the Forestry Foundation did not conduct sufficient due diligence with respect to their own mission statement, or that the Pulp and Paper Foundation was duplicitous about the impacts of the merger?
2008 – Randy Woodson is promoted to Provost of Purdue University. Jay Akridge is hired to replace Woodson as Dean of Purdue Agriculture
January, 2009 – Shannon Joseph is appointed as a Superior Court Judge by Governor Mike Easley on Easley’s last day in office. Judge Joseph is the daughter-in-law of powerful NC Senator Tony Rand, who resigns from the legislature in 2009.
2009 – The Natural Resources Foundation (only a year old at this point) creates a development plan for the 4,000 acres of Block 10 of Hofmann Forest (= the land south of US 17). This plan is later shared with prospective buyers of Hofmann Forest.
2010 – Randy Woodson is hired to serve as Chancellor of NCSU. He swears in his Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution of North Carolina.(see 1972)
Winter, 2010 – Peter Stein of Lyme Timber makes these remarks in Silviculture Magazine: “…a particular form of conservation easement has evolved that provides for discreet economic utilization of the land as well as permanent conservation. For farmland and ranchland, these types of conservation easements are known as…“farmland conservation easements”. For forestry, the term of art is a “working forest conservation easement”… Between 2000 and 2009, more than two dozen deals occurred where the acreage conserved via working forest conservation easements was greater than 75,000 acres per deal.”
September 20, 2011 – Stephanie Walker Spiros, an alumnus of Purdue, participates in a Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business conference entitled “Advanced Precision Selling for Experienced Ag Sales Professionals”. Stephanie is the daughter of Jerry Walker, and an active member of their family business, the Walker-Ag Group, which owns tens of thousands of acres across several states. Walker Ag-Group is based in Danville, Illinois, only one hour away from Purdue University.
Key question – during the period 2004-2013, did Randy Woodson make acquaintances with or solicit donations from Stephanie Walker Spiros or other members of the Walker family? Did anyone else on the NCSU Board of Trustees (or Endowment Fund BOT, or CNR staff) know the Walkers before the Hofmann sale? Did any of Woodson’s staff meet with the Walkers while Woodson was an administrator at Purdue?
April 25, 2012 – Dean Robert Brown mentions in a College of Natural Resources Faculty meeting that he has received two inquiries about a possible sale of Hofmann Forest, both from members of the Natural Resources Foundation Board. No minutes were taken or provided.
May 23, 2012 – Dean Robert Brown issues a strategic plan for CNR that includes monetizing Hofmann Forest. Faculty responses in opposition are ignored.
May 28, 2012 – Stephanie Walker Spiros serves on a Purdue University panel at the Retail Executive Management Forum in Indianapolis.
Summer, 2012 – drought in the Midwestern USA cuts grain production significantly, and corn prices reach all-time highs. Since North Carolina imports a net of 200 million bushels of corn per year to feed our millions of hogs, chickens, and turkeys, this sharp increase in feed prices must hit NC livestock producers very hard.
June 19, 2012 – Dean Robert Brown emails CNR Faculty, saying the plan for Hofmann monetization is moving along methodically with three interested parties and an appraisal underway. “the Foundation believes it is important to maintain the Hofmann name on the forest, maintain the bulk of the forest in a conservation easement that would guarantee it as a working forest in perpetuity, continue access to the forest for our faculty and students, and continue any long-term research projects on the forest.“
Key question – did Dean Brown ever tell faculty that he or the NR Board were already soliciting outright buyers for Hofmann Forest in 2012?
July 24, 2012 – Footnoted.com reveals significant financial relationships still exist between members of the Murphy Family and Smithfield Foods. Wendell Murphy remains on the board of Smithfield Foods.
August 10, 2012 – Natural Resources Foundation Executive Director David Ashcraft meets with forestry faculty at NCSU. He mentions there are now four potentially interested buyers for Hofmann, including two timber groups, the Conservation Fund, and the Navy/Marines. Ashcraft states that all options for the sale will keep Hofmann a working forest, and probably include an easement. No official minutes were taken, but notes from a faculty member are available.
September 26, 2012 – Hog producers Murphy-Brown (now a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods) and Prestage Farms (which sells hogs to Smithfield Foods) go in together via an LLC to import 750,000 metric tons of corn from Brazil, due to the sky-high price of corn from the midwestern USA.
September 28, 2012 – Brenda Brickhouse, chair of the Natural Resources Foundation, meets with CNR faculty. She describes Hofmann Forest as just another asset that could be put up for sale as needed, although the NR Board would protect it as a forest, with research, and teaching values. There is strong faculty pushback and opposition to this view. No minutes were taken or provided.
Fall, 2012, probably October – The Natural Resources Foundation apparently votes in secret to consider selling Hofmann Forest in its entirety and apparently seeks bidders, without telling or consulting faculty or any others. Select potential buyers were sent a prospectus at some point after this meeting.
Key Question – How were those potential buyers selected? Who were they? What was in that prospectus from the Natural Resources Foundation?
October 9, 2012 – NCSU announces a $10 million gift from the Prestage Family, to name the Department of Poultry Science. The timing is noteworthy given the summer of extremely high livestock feed prices that Prestage Farms had just weathered through.
October, 2012 – Mary Watzin is hired to replace Robert Brown (who retired) as Dean of the College of Natural Resources. At least three other candidates for the position were asked during the preceding interviews whether they would be willing to sell Hofmann Forest.
December 3, 2012. Mary Watzin holds her only meeting with the faculty as a whole to discuss the Hofmann Forest, but restricts that discussion only to hearing how the faculty use the forest—no comments about the value of the Forest or desires of the faculty were entertained, nor any information provided about a potential sale or monetization. No minutes were taken or provided.
[Note: This was the entire amount of faculty consultation before the sale was officially announced in January. A mention and email from Bob Brown; two meetings with NR Foundation representatives, and one with Dean Watzin, who did not want to discuss the Hofmann Forest retention or sale, just how we use the Forest. This is only four meetings at most, and they were all charades. In all cases the administrators promised that NCSU would have a conservation easement to protect the forest if it were sold. At no times were the faculty directly or even tangentially asked if we should sell the Forest. Faculty opposition was quite clear, nonetheless. The NCSU students or public were never consulted or met with. The true details of the potential sale were always misrepresented or outright lied about.
After the sale was announced in January, Dean Watzin was asked to meet with forestry faculty and students three or four times, and did so. At no time did she ever call a College wide meeting to discuss the Hofmann and hear views, debate, or discussion. And in any emails or web posts, she always maintained that the Hofmann would be maintained as a working forest. So overall, the public input and consultation (1) consisted of 4 pretend pre-sale announcements meetings and a few post announcement meetings called by faculty, where (2) outright falsehoods about partial monetization and working forest protections were promised; and (3) massive opposition to any sale was totally ignored. In fact, the final deal of total sale to agriculture business firm with zero forest protections was NEVER mentioned by the Deans, and totally opposed by all persons at the few pretend meetings held (NOT “dozens”). So the faculty, student, and public consultation was a complete, carefully orchestrated, deceitful charade, from start to finish, where all public input was ignored, and the Foundation and Deans did not even do what they promised to do in every meeting and communication.]
January 6, 2013 – Jerry Walker signs the application to form Hofmann Forest LLC in North Carolina, 12 days before the Natural Resources Foundation publicly announces their vote to sell the forest.
Key question – how did farmer Jerry Walker learn about the Hofmann Forest sale up in Illinois, before it was public knowledge in North Carolina?
January 11, 2013 – Chancellor Randy Woodson “…received a $63,000 raise Friday. His annual salary rose to $495,000 after a closed door vote by the UNC Board of Governors. He will also receive a one-time “retention payment” of $112,630 in non-state funds by March 31, to be paid by N.C. State University.” [Meanwhile, faculty and staff have had one 1% raise in 6 years.]
January 15, 2013 – “Increasing local production of feed grains is absolutely critical to the future of the livestock industry in the Southeast, and Murphy-Brown is committed to long-term sustainability of grain production in the Upper Southeast, says Terry Coffey, chief science & technology Officer [at Murphy-Brown]”
January 15, 2013 – Former Dean Bob Brown sends an email to the College of Natural Resources listserv assuring faculty that no one is considering selling Hofmann for development: “No where has anyone mentioned selling the Hofmann for a development, commercial, residential, recreational, or otherwise. The primary option under consideration is getting a 25 year, 50 year or permanent easement on the Forest, and retaining ownership.… The Hofmann will remain a permanent working forest, no matter what option is taken. An easement would guarantee that, and provide significant income to the college.”
January 18, 2013 – the Natural Resources Foundation Board votes [again?] unanimously to sell Hofmann Forest in its entirety. Dean Mary Watzin is allowed to vote to sell the forest. There are no practicing foresters left on the NRF Board at this point.
January 22, 2013 – Dean Mary Watzin sends out an email to College of Natural Resources alumni announcing the Hofmann sale. In the email, she pledges “The goal is to sell the property as a working forest.”
January 30, 2013 – Jerry Walker and an unknown group of co-investors file the paperwork (which Walker had signed on January 6) to form Hofmann Forest LLC in North Carolina, only 11 days after news of the sale was made public to faculty.
Key Question – who are the other members of Hofmann Forest LLC (current list and any original members who have since departed)? Any other corn farmers, Purdue alumni, hog magnates, NCSU trustees (or family members of trustees), etc.?
February 21, 2013 – the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of NCSU vote to allow the sale of Hofmann Forest to proceed. Until this point, Hofmann Forest was not technically for sale, as the Endowment Fund holds the deed to the forest.
March 9, 2013 – David Ashcraft of the Natural Resources Foundation is quoted by the News and Observer as saying “We’ll be looking for someone willing to maintain it [Hofmann] as a working forest. “Potential buyers are given until March 29 to submit bids for Hofmann, only two months from when the sale was made public. Several large timber companies later indicate they were not contacted by NCSU about the sale, including the largest forest landowner in the United States.
Key question – Is there any valid reason why the sale period for Hofmann Forest was so short – only two months from the NRF vote, and only one month from the Endowment Fund vote? Did NCSU ever take out print ads in any timber, forestry, farming, real estate, or conservation publications advertising the fact that this huge tract of land was for sale, and listing the stated criteria for the sale? If not, why not?
April 19, 2013 – Greenville, NC farm supply company owner Lawrence Davenport leaves the NCSU Board of Trustees, to join the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of NCSU. Davenport had previously served as Chair of the Endowment Fund Board of Trustees from 2009-2011, and vice-Chair from 2008-2009 (both posts ex officio).
April 26, 2013 – NCSU announces they are in negotiations with a potential buyer for Hofmann Forest, which in October is revealed to be Jerry Walker/Hofmann Forest LLC. NCSU later claims there were 20 expressions of interest in the forest, but only 7 bids.
Key question – who else bid for Hofmann Forest, and how much did they offer? Were there any easement-only offers, which could have been combined with other offers to buy the timberland in a way that would have genuinely protected Hofmann as a working forest? Did NCSU solicit any such easement offers? Were there any other farmers who thought about bidding?
May 6, 2013 – Ron Sutherland and a handful of protestors establish a mini-forest with 600 loblolly pine seedlings (potted in red plastic cups) in front of the Chancellor’s Residence at NCSU
July, 2013 – Ron Prestage is appointed to the NCSU Board of Trustees
July 10, 2013 – Sale opponents hold a noisy and energetic protest at the NCSU Board of Trustees meeting on Centennial Campus. Roughly 45 people attended the protest, including a number of forestry students wearing blaze orange vests and hard hats.
July 10, 2013 – NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson, denying the University’s need to ensure protection for Hofmann Forest, tells the News and Observer “We are not the Department of Conservation.” (see 2010 note about his Oath of Office)
August, 2013 – NCSU Associate Vice Chancellor Benny Suggs sends out replies to try and reassure a number of concerned alumni, stating “…we set some strict conditions of sale early in this process that any buyer must meet to ensure the land continues to be an asset for NC State going forward. Those conditions include: …Preserving the property as a working forest”
September, 2013 – Wendell Murphy is re-appointed to the NCSU Board of Trustees
September, 2013 – a group of five plaintiffs, led by NCSU Forestry Professor Fred Cubbage, files suit in Wake County Superior Court to try and stop the Hofmann sale, on grounds that the University failed to comply with the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the NC Constitution.
September 25, 2013 – NCSU and Natural Resources Foundation lawyers tell a Wake County Superior Court judge that no temporary restraining order against the Hofmann sale is needed, as no sale is imminent. The Judge denies the restraining order.
September 27, 2013 – Smithfield Foods is sold to the Chinese holding corporation Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd, in a deal valued at $7 billion. The Smithfield Foods management team remains in place.
October 29, 2013 – the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of NCSU vote to approve the Hofmann Forest sale agreement with Jerry Walker’s Hofmann Forest LLC. The sale agreement discusses Walker’s negotiations with the Marine Corps over the possibility of selling an agricultural easement on 70,000-acres of the property. But the agreement does not require this easement deal proceed, nor does it protect any of the land as a working forest. Walker is apparently the only farmer to have bid on the property, and several large timber groups later reveal they were not even contacted about the sale.
Key question – did the NCSU and NRF lawyers violate some code of legal ethics by blatantly misrepresenting the timeline of the impending Hofmann sale to a sitting Judge?
October 29, 2013 – Dean Mary Watzin (NCSU Natural Resources) sends out an email announcing the Hofmann sale. Watzin claims that the “sale contract meets all of the criteria established by the Natural Resources Foundation and is true to the core values of the College of Natural Resources.” It does not and is not.
October 29, 2013 – Dean Mary Watzin also sends Dean Jay Akridge (Purdue Agriculture) the announcement of the Hofmann sale to the Walkers. Akridge replies directly to Chancellor Woodson at NCSU with his congratulations.
November, 8, 2013 – Speaking of Hofmann Forest, Dean Mary Watzin tells WRAL News reporter Bruce Mildwurf that “Sales of private property do not require an environmental assessment”. When asked why the Hofmann sale agreement does not include language that protects Hofmann as a working forest (as many expected it would), Watzin replies “Because that’s really not something that is typically written into a contract”. Note: Working forest easements are legal contracts that are actually quite commonly used to protect forests from urban development, while still allowing timber harvesting (see Peter Stein quote above, winter 2010).
November 12, 2013 – Superior Court Judge Shannon Joseph dismisses the Hofmann lawsuit, after NCSU and Natural Resource Foundation lawyers argued that any environmental impact from the sale was mere speculation. The same lawyers also try to argue that Hofmann Forest is not public land, but desist temporarily when presented with the 1980 letter from Attorney General Edmisten.
November 13, 2013 – the investor’s prospectus prepared by Hofmann Forest LLC is leaked to Hofmann sale opponent Ron Sutherland, who scans it and turns it over to the press. The prospectus reveals plans to convert 45,000 acres of the forest into cropland over 10 years, and also a 9000-acre urban development along Highway 17. The prospectus is entirely consistent with the signed sale agreement, and boasts of potential income from the property exceeding half a billion dollars over the next decade.
Key question: When was this prospectus actually written, and when was it circulated? Is there a new version out there?
Key question – in business terms, how much would it help the hog and poultry farming industry in eastern NC to have 45,000 new acres of local corn production courtesy of Jerry Walker?
November 14. 2013 – NCSU claims they have never seen the prospectus document before. But eventually they are forced to admit that the development plans in the prospectus came from the College of Natural Resources or Natural Resource Foundation, and were given to prospective buyers.
Key question: can we get our hands on whatever packet of information was given to prospective Hofmann buyers? What organizations received that prospectus?
November 14, 2013 – NCSU and a spokesperson for Jerry Walker, in a stunning use of the plausible deniability approach, announce that the leaked prospectus was an “older document”, and that Jerry Walker actually told them more recently that he has no plans for development at Hofmann, despite the $500+ million income potential outlined in the prospectus.
Key question: Will Jerry Walker or anyone else from Walker Ag Group or Hofmann Forest LLC actually ever speak to the public about this sale and their plans for the management of the tract? If they are such conservationists, why do they never speak publicly about the Hofmann Forest or their plans?
November 18, 2013 – Dean Akridge at Purdue sends an email to Eric Putman, director of development/fundraising for Purdue Agriculture, warning Eric that the Hofmann buyers “may” have a connection to Purdue Agriculture. The message concludes with the terse instruction “Take care.”
Key question: Was Stephanie Walker Spiros a donor to Purdue Agriculture, and would she and Eric Putman have been in contact via email/direct meetings? What steps did Akridge want Putman to take when he instructed Putman to “Take care.”?
November 20, 2013 – Dean Mary Watzin tells the NCSU Student Senate that the Hofmann sale agreement establishes a working forest easement on the property. It does not.
November 20, 2013 – The NCSU student newspaper, the Technician, slams Chancellor Randy Woodson in a powerful editorial. “So to you, Chancellor Woodson, we apologize. We apologize for not doing the research we should’ve to realize that the conservation of the Hofmann Forest was never a priority for you. ”
December 6, 2013 – Hofmann sale opponents hold a large and successful protest (80+ attendees) at NCSU’s brickyard, again using the baby pine trees, this time to form a large dollar sign on the brick plaza. The protest culminates with an energetic march to the Chancellor’s Office.
January, 2014 – the NC Coastal Federation urges the US Army Corps of Engineers to investigate possible wetlands violations at Hofmann Forest related to land-clearing and ditching activities conducted by NCSU
Key question – what do NCSU, the NRF, and Jerry Walker know about the legal wetland status of Hofmann’s 79,000 acres? Have they paid to have the whole property delineated, and do the pine plantations that were ditched prior to 1977 still qualify as wetlands? And what mitigation agreement have they worked out with the EPA regarding the possible violations that recently occurred?
February 17, 2014 – Hofmann sale opponents, with help from major environmental groups, manage to send 4000 letters to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, demanding that he stop defending NCSU in their attempt to break state environmental laws with the Hofmann sale. Cooper’s office responds with an announcement that it is his job to defend the university.
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/17/3631009/opponents-of-hofmann-forest-sale.html (only 2000 letters had been sent at that point)
Key question – in North Carolina, whose job is it to make sure State Agencies follow state law, if not the Attorney General’s office (and the SBI, which is overseen by the Attorney General?)
February 19, 2014 – Dean Mary Watzin makes these comments about Hofmann Forest at the joint Cape Fear Arch/Onslow Bight Conservation Collaborative meeting in eastern NC (attended by dozens of conservationists):”Most people support the sale. The protests against the sale have been minor….We never said we were selling it with an easement. The buyer will keep it as working lands that is what his primary interest is. We did not know about the prospectus done by the buyer and it has been put aside.”
Spring, 2014 – Hofmann Forest LLC (Walkers et al.) approaches RMS timber about involving RMS in the Hofmann purchase deal. RMS (a timber investment and management organization (TIMO) already has large landholdings in eastern North Carolina, and RMS had previously bid on Hofmann Forest.
Key Question: Did Hofmann Forest LLC also attempt to back out of the Hofmann sale altogether during this period, when the wetlands investigations were underway and the closing appeared unlikely by the June 30 deadline mentioned in the sale agreement?
July 14, 2014 – final briefs on the Hofmann Forest case are submitted to the NC Court of Appeals
July 17, 2014 – A MoveOn.org petition is started to Save Hofmann Forest from being destroyed, quickly reaching over 9200 signatures after only 5 weeks. A previous petition hosted by ipetitions.com reaches 2124 signatures as well (with some overlapping names between the two lists).
July 23, 2014 – NCSU Trustee Ron Prestage is arrested after a loaded 9mm handgun is found in his bag while he was entering a congressional office building in DC. Prestage was in DC to lobby on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council, of which he is the president-electhttp://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/23/4024878/ncsu-trustee-arrested-with-gun.html
August 5, 2014 -oral arguments are set by the NC Court of Appeals for the Hofmann case, for August 26, 2014
August 7, 2014 – Natural Resources Foundation Attorney Paul Flick asks the Court of Appeals to postpone the oral arguments until “sometime after September 30″.
August 15, 2014 – The NC Court of Appeals rejects the request to delay the oral arguments, and instead cancels the oral arguments altogether. It will consider the appeal based on the written briefs.
August 25, 2014 – Hofmann sale opponents hold two simultaneous protests, one at NCSU’s Brickyard Plaza and one at Deppe Park inside Hofmann Forest along US 17. The Deppe protest draws over 75 people, who spread out along the highway waving signs and getting passing drivers to honk in support. The NCSU protest is attended by over 100 people, who gather under the shade of a large oak tree and listen to a series of inspired speeches by leaders such as Fred Cubbage, Ron Sutherland, Ernie Averett, and Andrew Payne, among others. Then the NCSU protesters took the 1000-page stack of signatures from the two petitions (MoveOn and ipetitions) to the Chancelllor’s office. A group of about 50 protesters went into Holladay Hall and chanted “Chancellor Woodson won’t you please, save the forest, save the trees” while the box containing the petitions was delivered. The Chancellor’s representatives claimed Woodson was in a meeting.
August 26, 2014 – the MoveOn.org petition hits 10,000 signatures after just over a month. Between the two petitions, there are at least 11,000 different people who have signed on to call for canceling the sale and protecting Hofmann Forest.
September 3, 2014 – Charles Meeker, who served 5 terms as Mayor of Raleigh (2001-2011) has an op-ed published in the News and Observer: “State should stop impending blunder of selling Hofmann Forest.” Meeker calls for the State legislature to find a way to purchase and protect the forest for the benefit of all.
September 9, 2014 – NCSU reveals to the News and Observer that a new sale agreement had been signed (as of September 2) for a reported $140 million. The new agreement proposes to divide the property into two parts, with the larger share (56,000 acres) going to RMS timber for $105 million, and the remainder (23,000 acres) still going to Hofmann Forest LLC for $25.85 million (total $130.85 million). A contingent price is added to the deal, $9.15 million, which will be paid by Hofmann Forest LLC upon sale of sufficient easements to the military or other third parties.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/gwq871m47iajn1q/AmendedandRestatedAgreement.pdf?dl=0 (=the new agreement text, missing exhibits and maps)
September 12, 2014 – NCSU publishes its own accounting of the Hofmann Forest saga (“Hofmann Facts”), falsely claiming that the decision to sell was an open and deliberative process (see above timeline).
View or share as .pdf: Timeline of Key Events Related to Hofmann Forest V10 September 14 2014
Hofmann Forest has been used for decades to provide multiple public benefits, including clean water, wildlife habitat, and forestry research and experimentation. NCSU has held this land in trust for the benefit of it’s students and residents throughout the state. In transferring ownership from public to private, the citizens of North Carolina and the future NCSU-CNS students will be deprived of the many public benefits provided by the forest. Watershed protection, soil and forest conservation, wildlife habitat improvement, production of timber and other commodities will be compromised. They will be lost completely to the people of North Carolina if this property transfers to private ownership.
Hofmann Forest provides critical filtration of run-off from areas west of the forest helping to make the Castle Hayne Aquifer one of the prime aquifers on the east coast. Is the potential loss of our drinking water worth it? Speaking of water–what about our beaches? What about the Crystal Coast? Do we want our beaches to experience even more closures due to high bacteria numbers? What about those tourists? We depend on their dollars coming to our Crystal Coast beaches. More beach closures means less tourists spending their hard earned money. It also means people will move out.
This potential sale of Hofmann Forest, even split into two sales- one to RMS Timber and the other 29,000 acres going to Walker Ag Group and their elusive investors using the moniker “Hofmann Forest, LLC” does nothing to prevent the future development of this sensitive wetland & pocosin. The buyers are going to want to make money on their investment, and that will undoubtedly include some sort of development. If the buyer can sell easements to Camp LeJeune, why cannot NCSU-CNS do the same in order to increase income from the property? This sale is one of the most all-encompassing short-sighted deals I’ve ever witnessed. One new stadium or theatre & poof- the money from the sale of Hofmann will be gone.
One last item- Robert Brown (NCSU Dean 2006) has definitively stated there are NO endangered indigenous plants in Hofmann. Is this because the pine plantation part has been so poorly mismanaged that it currently is unsuitable for those species that are now thriving in the Croatan National Forest, Holly Shelter, and also Camp LeJeune? NCSU used to be a model of Forestry management; Hofmann Forest is the largest University-owned working forest in the world and it used to be renowned- both the forest and the school were renowned. NCSU should be ashamed. Not only have they mismanaged this forest as well as the income it used to bring, they will lost their standing as one of the best forestry schools in the world IF they continue to push this sale of Hofmann Forest through.
Article 14, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution is clearly being violated. And where exactly are those REQUIRED state or federal environmental impact studies on the property comprising Hofmann Forest? There are so many blatant atrocities involved in this scandalous sale. It would certainly behoove NCSU to reconsider selling Hofmann Forest.
IWLA White Oak River Chapter President
NC-WRC Hunter’s Ed Instructor
Howdy ya’ll!I’m excited about this month’s meeting! Donnie has confirmed Daniel Baumgardner will be our speaker this month. Daniel has been working long and hard on the Weetok trail, which was one of local legend Elmer Eddy’s pet projects. The Weetok runs appx from Hwy 58 along Holstein Creek on the northern end, along the White Oak River, then along Hunter’s Creek back out to Hwy 58 a bit further south. This link is 10 years old, but gives you a basic idea of the route this trail takes. http://www.waterwaystewards.us/wwsblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/2004-02-01-WEETOK-TRAIL-SECTION-1.pdf[Here's a newer map by Daniel, but please do look at the one above, too! 2014-07-28 Daniels Weetock Trail Map Thanks! - John]Daniel has been instrumental in re-routing this trail–something that is inevitable after years of storms, as we well know at the IWLA. He is also helping to officially document some real neat archaeological finds- a mass grave of over 200 African-Americans, once thought by locals to be an old hospital cemetery. There’s lots more, going back thousands of years & including several Native American specific sites. The Weetok is rich with history & I’m encouraging all our members, friends, and Scouts to come & see Daniel’s presentation on the Weetok Trail on Tuesday September 23rd.Meet-n-greet begins at 5:30, eatin at 6, & Daniel at 6:30. Please come out & join us. Dinner this month is going to be potluck…. you know I’m gonna bake some bread for this one! Don’t miss out!
YiS,Jessica HultBSA ECC Croatan Trails Membership ChairIWLA White Oak River Chapter PresidentNC-WRC Hunter’s Ed Instructor252-342-0591 -c252-393-8952 -hFollow IWLA White Oak River Chapter on facebook: