A new buyer has been added to the sales agreement for the 78,000-acre Hofmann Forest.
N.C. State University plans to sell two-thirds of the property to an Alabama-based sustainable timber company called Resource Management Service. The remaining third will still go to Hofmann Forest, LLC, which is owned by the Walkers, a prominent farming family in Illinois.
NC State spokesman Brad Bohlander says endowment trustees are happy to have the timber company on board.
“It enhances sustainable forestry operations over the majority of the property. It continues to allow access for NC State students and researchers,” Bohlander said.
A lawsuit to block the sale is pending a decision in the state Court of Appeals. It alleges the university should have done an environmental impact statement, and include explicit protections for forest land. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
When Hofmann Forest, LLC had been the sole buyer, the company had circulated a prospectus telling investors it could cut down trees for cropland and also build 10,500 homes there.
Conservation scientist Ron Sutherland is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. He says shifting two-thirds ownership over to a sustainable timber company is only a marginal improvement.
Sutherland says conservative outdoorsmen and progressive environmentalists alike are backing his efforts to block the sale of the forest. He says 19 organizations have endorsed the Save Hofmann Forest campaign, and their MoveOn.org petition has more than 10,000 signatures.
“I think what we can do is create the political pressure to, you know, either stop the sale altogether or at the very least get a forest easement in place,” said Sutherland.
But Brad Bohlander says zoning laws are already in place to protect the forest property.
The Hofmann sale is expected to finalize in November.