Hofmann Forest Update — Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network

The energetic campaign to save the 79,000 acre Hofmann forest in coastal North Carolina continues to make good progress. Hofmann, for those who don’t know, is the largest single tract of state-owned land in North Carolina, and it has been operated for the benefit of NC State University for 80 years. The tract is critical for clean water (3 rivers flow out of its boundaries) and wildlife habitat connectivity (it links Croatan National Forest to other wildlife refuges to the north and south). But now the University is trying to sell the property to an agri-businessman from Illinois, Jerry Walker, and Walker’s leaked plans show he is planning on destroying 50,000+ acres of the forest to make way for cornfields and golf courses!
While the lawsuit to stop the sale on environmental grounds heads to the NC Court of Appeals, we’re continuing to reach out to decision makers asking them to cancel this outrageous plan. A few months ago we targeted Attorney General Roy Cooper (whose office is defending the university against the lawsuit), with 4000 letter-writers asking him to do the right thing and enforce the State Environmental Policy Act instead. Cooper’s office was forced to acknowledge the pressure to the media, but they haven’t backed out of defending the sale yet (though the lawyer assigned to the case was replaced, interestingly enough).
So now we’re planning on putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the leaders of NC State University, asking them to drop the sale of Hofmann Forest, both for the sake of the environment and for the sake of their reputation. The decision to sell the forest has been cloaked in secrecy from the beginning, and runs against the wishes of students, faculty, and alumni, not to mention the local community. Plus there are good reasons to think that the primary beneficiary of the land going to a corn farmer would the hog farming industry, which turns out to be desperate for cheaper grains to feed their millions of pigs, and which turns out to be well-represented on the NC State University Board of Trustees.
With help from you and your friends and a broad range of partner groups, we can make it loud and clear that destroying Hofmann Forest isn’t going to happen on our watch. Instead of selling the forest, the University administrators should show some actual leadership and find ways to use this world-class facility to its full potential as an outdoor classroom for forestry, wildlife conservation, and ecological restoration. And the land should be re-opened to the public so we can all enjoy this huge tract of state-owned land.

Ron Sutherland, Ph.D.
Conservation Scientist, Wildlands Network