Tag Archives: NCSU

A forest’s future

A forest’s future,  N&O

Nice editorial and sentiments from the N&O as usual. It is good to see that the university has agreed to keep the Forest, but they still need to fulfill and enhance the vision of “..using the forest as an academic research center.”

The Hofmann should be used for research, for students, and for education (its original and enduring intent), and for benefits to local citizens–who forego property tax revenues for the “nonprofit educational forest”–yet pay for all the roads that the loggers and truckers use for free to access the forest, as well as forego local school, fire, and police revenues.

Despite the NCSU rhetoric and PR, Faculty and students and locals are still being denied access to use the Hofmann Forest, which in no way fulfills its mission or its treatment as a charitable, scientific, and educational tax-free organization. So, the Hofmann should renew its NCSU and local education and conservation missions, so everybody can benefit from its protection and management, not just private fund raising administrators in Raleigh.

Fred Cubbage

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Conflicting Goals and Priorities – Questions for the NC Supreme Court on the Sale of Hofmann Forest

In the NWQEP NOTES, The NCSU Water Quality Group Newsletter, Number 138 August 2013 ISSN 1062-9149, one recommendation is outstanding:

…The State water quality agency should consider
encouraging the state, local agencies, or land trusts to
purchase riparian properties in cases where watershed
cleanup efforts have failed to be achieved or failed to be
lasting. Environmental agencies should review their
programs for conflicting mandates and implementations.
Specific roles, reporting requirements, and priorities should
be consistent.

We couldn’t agree more!  Granted, the above recommendation has a much narrower contextual focus than presented by the prospective sale of Hofmann Forest, but  it is alarmingly apropos to the apparent divergent goals and implementations highlighted by this sale of public land by NCSU and concurrent efforts within NCSU and other state agencies.

Will the NC supreme Court find that North Carolina’s various agencies and programs have conflicting goals (broader than mandates) and implementations with regard to the sale of Hofmann Forest?  Will they find the sale of Hofmann Forest consistent with the intent of the NC Constitution, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and UNC System Policy?

Does the apparent internal inconsistency of NCSU rushing to the sale, while simultaneously promoting  vastly disparate public policy, reflect a lack of cogent leadership within the University?  Is the sale of Hofmann Forest representative of a broader inconsistency within state government that only action by the NC Supreme Court or legislation could remedy?

NWQEP NOTES, The NCSU Water Quality Group Newsletter, Number 138, August 2013 ISSN 1062-9149

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NCSU Water Quality Group

The North Carolina State University (NCSU) Water Quality Group is a multidisciplinary team that analyzes and evaluates nonpoint source (NPS) pollution control technologies and water quality programs in North Carolina and nationwide. We are a component of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (NC CES), Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department (Bio&Ag) at North Carolina State University and the N.C. State University’s Soil and Water Environmental Technology Center (SWETC).

via NCSU Water Quality Group.

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What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean?

According to NOAA:

Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land. One of the biggest sources is called nonpoint source pollution, which occurs as a result of runoff. Nonpoint source pollution includes many small sources, like septic tanks, cars, trucks, and boats, plus larger sources, such as farms, ranches, and forest areas. Millions of motor vehicle engines drop small amounts of oil each day onto roads and parking lots. Much of this, too, makes its way to the sea.

Some water pollution actually starts as air pollution, which settles into waterways and oceans. Dirt can be a pollutant. Top soil or silt from fields or construction sites can run off into waterways, harming fish and wildlife habitats.

Nonpoint source pollution can make river and ocean water unsafe for humans and wildlife. In some areas, this pollution is so bad that it causes beaches to be closed after rainstorms.

More than one-third of the shellfish-growing waters of the United States are adversely affected by coastal pollution.

via What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean?

So,  it makes sense for North Carolina to sell 79,000 acres of coastal forest land into private ownership with the only real restriction on land-use being the highest and best use real estate development doctrine?  What else is wrong with the sale of Hofmann Forest?

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More Signs not a Good Sign

North Carolina spends lots of money on signs.  They are everywhere, along our roads, on river and stream banks, in coastal waters, and on beaches.  The signs may be informational, educational, or regulatory, but they are all there ostensibly for our benefit as citizens.  Signs for the benefit of citizens – good, right?  More, better?  Not so fast!  After the sale of Hofmann Forest, we’ll get a whole new crop of signs that will say one thing, but will be symbolic of something else entirely.

NCSU, a public University,  is selling Hofmann Forest, public land, to private entities, with no significant long-term restrictions against development.  On the other hand, we have the significant positive accomplishments of other North Carolina government entities working to protect and preserve sources for future drinking water supplies and to reduce the extent of  surface water quality impairment.

It is well known that development, including agriculture,  is the main source of water quality degradation and resulting impaired surface waters.  Research and conclusions on this subject, much conducted at NCSU,  are abundant and clear.  Across a wide spectrum of North Carolina government, this simple, but true, educational message is repeated again, and again.  You cannot escape North Carolina’s watershed-awareness and impact-of-development messages as you go about your life in this state.  You find them as you visit our state’s websites, schools, museums, aquariums, estuarium, parks, and even when you drive on our highways!  Ever see an “Entering Neuse Basin” sign?  Those signs, and the worthy efforts of which they are symbolic, are your tax dollars at work!

NCSU Officials, the NCSU Endowment Fund Board, and Attorney General Roy Copper, who are promoting and facilitating the sale of Hofmann Forest, must have missed all of the NCSU subject matter research and North Carolina’s extensive and well-intentioned watershed-awareness and impact-of-development messages.  How else could they be promoting and facilitating the sale of  Hofmann Forest,  with no significant long-term restrictions against development?  Hofmann Forest is a significant percentage of  the undeveloped land in three already impaired river basins of this state.

Maybe dysfunctional state government just likes signs.  By selling Hofmann Forest, North Carolina will almost certainly get more opportunities to put up closed shellfish waters and swimming advisory signs!  How do I know?  The state says so, again, and again, and again.  I didn’t even have to come up with that one myself!

By the way, those swimming advisory and closed shellfish waters signs, and the worthy efforts of which they are symbolic, are your tax dollars at work, too!

See, we really can pay for it both ways!  After the destruction of Hofmann Forest at the hands of the state, we’ll get a whole new crop of signs.  All these signs, especially the new ones,  will become symbolic of the North Carolina’s worthy efforts to protect us from the consequences of the North Carolina’s, not so worthy, sale of Hofmann Forest!  The signs will cease to have any real meaning related to their words.  Instead, they will just be symbolic of dysfunctional state government.

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Remember the Berkeley protests of 1964 – Technician: Opinion

It’s possible on our campus to influence change and advocate for things we care about. College students have had an important voice in society in the past, but we shouldn’t relegate that power to history books. If students today can shelve their apathy and overcome fear of failure, they can make big changes in the world around them.

via Remember the Berkeley protests of 1964 – Technician: Opinion.

Let’s let the Opposition to the Sale of Hofmann Forest become another example of how students can make a difference!  It is not too late!

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Meet the people who voted to sell Hofmann Forest!

Dear Friends of Hofmann Forest,

I am writing to invite you to a very special occasion! On Thursday, October 16, the NC State Natural Resources Foundation Board will be meeting at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary, NC, 10:00am. 201 Harrison Oaks Blvd, Cary, NC 27513 (just off I-40, behind Bass Pro Shops)

The Natural Resources Foundation, in case you don’t know, is the group whose vote in January, 2013 started the process of putting Hofmann Forest up for sale (even though they haven’t owned the forest since 1977). We would like it very much if a few of you could join us at the hotel that morning to express our feelings about the relative merits of their decision.

If you think you can make it, please RSVP to me with “NRF welcoming committee” in the subject line, and I’ll send you the details of what we have in mind. We should have plenty of Save Hofmann yard signs to give away at the event as well, so if you need a sign this is a good opportunity to pick one up.

One other thing – there are still a few million people in North Carolina (and beyond) who would be opposed to the Hofmann Forest sale, if only someone they knew took the time to explain what is going on and how they could get involved. Can you please take a moment to share the petition link below with your friends and family again, with a short message why you think protecting a 79,000-acre public forest is important in this day and age?
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-hofmann-forest-from?source=c.fwd&r_by=10925835

If they need more info, you can refer them to our beautiful interactive map:
http://wn.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=80da886a8e7e4eb899a4d3e9c11c66bd

Thank you very much for sticking up for Hofmann Forest when no one else would. All of you deserve the very special new title: “Hofmann’s Heroes” – how does that sound?

Did I mention that the News and Observer reported that NCSU hopes to have the Hofmann deal closed on or before November 17? We don’t have very much time left to derail the sale…

For the forest,

Ron Sutherland, Ph.D.
NCSU Biology ’99
Conservation Scientist
Wildlands Network
ron@wildlandsnetwork.org

ps – great new Hofmann articles if you haven’t seen them:
http://www.northcarolinasportsman.com/details.php?id=4510
http://www.carolinacoastonline.com/tideland_news/news/article_b6e9cf92-496e-11e4-890e-6b6ddc639d4b.html

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Hofmann Forest — Fortune or Infamy?

MEMORANDUM

Date: 17 September 2014 (Sent); Updated 28 September 2014

To: Sent to NCSU Leadership, Foundation, Boards, and Sustainability

From: Fred Cubbage, Professor, Coordinator, Natural Resources Program /FWC/
Joseph Roise, Professor, Director of Graduate Programs, FER /JR/

Subject: Hofmann Forest Sale Legacy

Hofmann Fortune or Infamy Updated V9

See also: Hofmann Forest Sale – Financial Boon or Regional Bust?

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Our Reaction to NCSU’s Orwellian “Hofmann Facts” website

Our Reaction to NCSU’s Orwellian “Hofmann Facts” website
Ron Sutherland and Fred Cubbage
September 14, 2014

References:http://www.ncsu.edu/hofmann-facts/ (as viewed 9/14/2014), our updated timeline of Hofmann events, and our response to the new sale agreement.

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.

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