Forestry

A recently retired North Carolina State University professor capped his career with a prestigious international award.

Dr. Ron Sederoff has been awarded the Marcus Wallenberg Prize for his work on the molecular genetics of trees. The award is known as the Nobel prize of forestry.

Image of wood pellets, which are causing an environmental controversy in North Carolina. Though the energy source is carbon neutral in theory, that's not always true in practice.
Andrew_Writer / Flickr Creative Commons

The wood pellet industry is booming in North Carolina, thanks in part to high demand from Europe. Power plants burn the wood product to create energy, but wood pellet companies are cutting down trees at a higher rate than anticipated, raising questions about whether the practice really is carbon neutral.

Dave DeWitt

Trucks carrying long logs stream into the wood pellet plant on the edge of Ahoskie all day, every day. The facility, owned by a company called Enviva, was an abandoned saw mill just five years ago. Now, it towers over the adjacent Wal-Mart and Hardees, spewing white smoke.

Along the fence that encircles the plant, logs are stacked 40-feet high. Longleaf pine, southern red oak, white ash - pretty much every tree species that grows in the southeast could be used to make wood pellets.

hogs
NC Dept of Agriculture

Farmers gamble millions—sometimes tens of millions —of dollars on the weather every year. When they place their bets on crops and animals, they look at the science, they listen to experts, and sometimes they think about stories their mama used to tell them.

Image of Pisgah National Forest
Flickr/Jeff Gun

    

The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in western North Carolina play an integral role in the state’s environment and economy. 

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

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.

NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Wikimedia

Officials with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences are renovating its Museum of Forestry facility in Whiteville.  But the forestry museum's board will have to raise $100,000 as part of the process. 

Legislators wrote into the state budget a requirement for the fundraising effort as a means of proving the facility has value to the Whiteville community.

Museum of Natural Sciences director Emlyn Koster says plans are to turn the building into a hands-on community learning facility.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

A resolution may come soon in the case of the Hofmann Forest sale.

N.C. State University is trying to sell the 80,000-acre coastal forest. Opponents say the land serves many vital conservation purposes and should not be sold. 

Since a Wake County Superior Court judge threw out the case last November, opponents have launched two online petitions, flooded the Attorney General’s office with 4,000 emails, and placed hundreds of yard signs across the Triangle and eastern North Carolina.

Pisgah National Forest
Flickr

Thirty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan signed the North Carolina Wilderness Act which protected nearly 100,000 acres of wilderness in the state. Robert Cox, former president of the Sierra club, was instrumental in the law’s passage.

He toured the state showing the following slideshow on the importance of wilderness. It was digitized by the North Carolina Sierra Club as part of the project, Our Wild North Carolina.

Of course, the North Carolina Wilderness Act was controversial at the time, just as many environmental issues are today. Human industry has historically locked horns with the rest of nature.

Today, Cox is a professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he studies the rhetoric of environmentalism and social change. 

Photo: J.V. Hofmann and class measuring pine in reed bed at Hofmann Forest, about 1937
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

  A company that has a deal to buy a 79,000-acre forest from North Carolina State University may have wanted to turn more than half of it into suburban cul-de-sacs, office buildings and corn farm lands, according to a company document leaked this week.

The plans, outlined in an prospectus addressed to potential investors, apparently contradicts statements the buyer, Hofmann Forest LLC, and the university have made saying the timber forest near Jacksonville in Onslow County would be protected in a potential sale.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

If you’re in the market for a large piece of land near the coast – say a quarter of the size of Wake County - then you really have only one option. 80,000 acres… Pristine coastal pine forest… Abundant wildlife. And what a location! Adjacent to the Croatan National Forest, just a stone’s throw from the beach!

There’s only one problem.

One night in December 1995, Jill Marker was leaving her job as assistant manager of an artificial flower shop called the Silk Plant Forest in Winston-Salem, NC when she was savagely beaten and left for dead. A few months later, police charged a man named Kalvin Michael Smith with the crime and he was convicted by a jury the next year. Smith has always maintained his innocence and several follow-up investigations show that police may have mishandled the case.

An Asian beetle that first turned up in Michigan is threatening to spread to North Carolina. The Emerald Ash Borer arrived in the U.S. about ten years ago. Since then it's spread from the midwest, to most of the states surrounding North Carolina. Brian Haines works for the state Forest Service.

A brown pelican blown off course nearly a year ago by Hurricane Earl has been released into the wild on the North Carolina coast. The seabird nicknamed "Ralph" was found injured on the roof of a building in Nova Scotia last September. Ralph was transported earlier this year to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport. The nickname stuck despite the fact that Ralph is a female. Clinic supervisor Maria Rush says Ralph completed the rehabilitation process this weekend.

Pisgah National Forest
usda.gov

A forestry law pushed by civic and business leaders in Asheville one hundred years ago is being celebrated today. The Weeks Act allowed the federal government to purchase private land for the establishment of National Forests. sg

James Lewis is a historian at The Forest History Society. He says what started in Asheville has grown to almost 20 million acres nationwide.