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NC State Endowment Fund Announces New Hofmann Forest Plan

For Immediate Release

The Board of Trustees for the Endowment Fund of NC State University in conjunction with the Natural Resources Foundation announced today a long-term strategy for Hofmann Forest. The new strategy includes retaining ownership of the majority of the property and ensuring conservation over as much as 70,000 acres of the land.

The plan includes opportunities to maximize benefits and, over time, to realize greater financial returns from use of the land, while protecting the majority of the 79,000-acre forest from intensive development. It also preserves the Hofmann Forest name, maintains access for students and faculty, and maintains a sustainable working forest.

Opportunities that will be pursued include the following:

  • Negotiating the sale of easements and leases to support the training needs of the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps;
  • Potentially selling a multi-decade timber deed on the approximately 56,000 acres of existing pine plantation with requirements for certified sustainable practices;
  • Negotiating conservation easements for the approximately 18,000 acre Big Open Pocosin;
  • Potentially selling the current 1,600-acre farm for continued agricultural use;
  • Potentially selling the two mitigation banks, totaling about 450 acres, for continued mitigation use;
  • Developing a long-term strategy for the approximately 4,000 acres south of State Highway 17 near Jacksonville that considers its best use;
  • Exploring additional conservation prospects.

Chancellor Randy Woodson states this plan is a much different approach in which the Endowment Fund keeps the majority of the forest, trading off short-term financial return for control of the property and greater return over many years.

“We believe this is the most responsible way to move forward,” Woodson said. “We learned a great deal during last year’s sales effort and in the process became aware of long-term opportunities that allow for greater control of the land, and ultimately more benefit to the College of Natural Resources, its students and faculty.”

Although the timeline has shifted, the Fund could see more than $125 million in return from this approach in the next several years, and much more over the next several decades. Those additional resources will go to strengthen research and academic offerings within the College of Natural Resources by providing additional scholarships, funding new experiential education opportunities for students, facilitating interdisciplinary research and supporting new professorships.

To assist with the strategy, the Endowment Fund Board is seeking a conservation entity/financial advisor that will act as an agent to manage the process and facilitate discussions with interested parties. Proposals are being accepted until April 15; details are available online.

“This plan will generate significant income for the college while maintaining control over future uses of the property,” said Mary Watzin, dean of the College of Natural Resources. “It supports the strategic needs of the college and ultimately may serve as a model for sustainable solutions to the twin challenges of natural resource conservation and economic development.”

Hofmann Forest was purchased in 1934 by the North Carolina Forestry Foundation Inc. The foundation, today known as the NC State Natural Resources Foundation, gifted the land to the NC State Endowment Fund in 1977 specifically for the sole benefit of the College of Natural Resources. The NC State Endowment Fund, an entity that is separate from the university but exists to provide financial support to it, holds title to the property. The NC State Natural Resources Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization, serves as the manager of the forest and its operations, and retains a reversionary interest in the property.

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