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http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/11/14/3371051/buyer-apparently-has-plans-for.html

Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right. When the terms of the sale of NC State’s Hofmann Forest were announced (79,000 acres at $150MM), I did a quick bit of math. The sale price works out to about $1900/acre.  In this economic climate, I’d gauge that price as a bit high to make a profit harvesting timber.  It certainly didn’t leave much “margin of safety” for the investor, even if the whole parcel were usable- but it’s not.  Roughly 20,000 acres of the Forest is outright swamp bottomland, or pocosin- elevated but extremely swampy land that doesn’t grow merchantable trees, and can’t be drained due to water quality laws.  Once that’s factored in, the cost of each usable acre goes up to ~$2,500/acre.  At that price, no one is buying forest land for timber management- it’s a real estate transaction for conversion to agriculture (swine/poultry) or commercial and residential development of a large part of the forest.

It was plain to me two weeks ago, there was no way that the sale price announced for the Hofmann Forest could be paid without the buyer carving the forest up, selling large chunks of it for real estate, and converting some of it to agriculture or, perhaps more creatively, leasing training areas to the Marine Corps to be converted into landing strips and drop zones. And now the plan has leaked: a prospectus from the buyer to potential financiers, stating the ways they plan to make their money back, plus a handsome profit, simply by capitalizing on “the sheer number of higher and better uses that it offers”. The prospectus does not mention the buyer’s commitment to retain working forest OR research opportunities, only the potential cash flows.

At this point, it’s obvious that the administration of the NC State College of Natural Resources has engaged in deceit and treachery against its students and against the people of NC, either through outright lies, or through fundamental incompetence. Land ethic, conservation, and “taking the long view over the short run” have been trampled over in a rush for treasure.  This action cannot be taken lightly.

Here is the petition against the sale from alumni and concerned citizens. If you have not signed it, please reconsider. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cnr-alumni-against-the-sale-of-the-hofmann-forest/

Consider contacting the NC State board of trustees and ask that the administrators who claimed that the forest would remain a forest benefiting research and teaching be held accountable for their actions. http://www.ncsu.edu/about-nc-state/university-leadership/board-of-trustees/current.php .  The University Board of Governors should also hear your concerns.  They have policy-making oversight over all universities within the UNC System, including NC State: http://www.northcarolina.edu/bog/members.htm .  Finally, don’t overlook the importance of public opinion as shaped through newspaper, TV station, and other widely viewed web sites.  Make your voice known.

The stakes are high. NC State’s legacy of teaching through real-world application of science and active land stewardship is at risk.

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The NC State University Natural Resources Foundation has proposed selling the University’s 80,000 acre Hofmann Forest to generate income for unspecified growth goals.  The Hofmann is well-known as the largest research and teaching forest owned by the university.  Students, alumni and faculty have been understandably surprised, upset, and saddened by the.  A petition seeking to stop the sale can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/.  Text of the email announcing the sale can be found here.  My letter to the Dean of the NC State College of Natural Resources and the NRF board can be found below:

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. (more…)

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Text of an email received from Brenda Brickhouse (President, NRF) and Dean Mary Watzin: (more…)

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