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HR and Finance

The Conservation Fund Selected to Lead Hofmann Forest Negotiations

For Immediate Release

The Board of Trustees for the Endowment Fund of NC State University has selected The Conservation Fund, supported by the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, to manage land-use negotiations for Hofmann Forest. The Conservation Fund-led partnership was selected out of 14 submissions following the Endowment Fund and Natural Resources Foundation’s announcement of a new long-term strategy for Hofmann Forest and request for proposals earlier this year.

“The Conservation Fund’s deep expertise and 30 years of achievements in environmental protection and economic vitality supported by the nearly 90 years of Sutherland’s expertise in the timber and forest products industries and their significant experience negotiating complex transactions with the military will contribute to achieving our long-term sustainability plans for Hofmann Forest,” said NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson.

The university’s plan for Hofmann Forest includes maximizing the land as a natural resource and long-term financial asset for the benefit of academic programs and research in the College of Natural Resources, while protecting the majority of the 79,000-acre forest from intensive development. The university plans to retain ownership of the majority of the property and work to ensure conservation over as much as 70,000 acres of the land while preserving the Hofmann Forest name, maintaining access for students and faculty, and maintaining a sustainable working forest.

“The Conservation Fund is honored and excited to work on a project of such enormous significance to NC State and the communities of eastern North Carolina,” said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund. “We look forward to bringing our expertise in working forest conservation and ability to work effectively with federal, state and other partners to protect Hofmann Forest while providing economic benefits for the College of Natural Resources.”

The Conservation Fund and Sutherland will facilitate discussions with interested parties regarding the following potential opportunities:

  • Negotiating a restricted use easement, license or lease agreements on up to 70,000 acres for training purposes related to the military presence.
  • Negotiating a multi-decade timber deed on the approximately 56,000 acres of existing pine plantation with requirements for certified sustainable practices, ensuring the continuation of a sustainable working forest.
  • Negotiating conservation easements for the approximate 18,000 acre Big Open Pocosin.
  • Potential sale of the current 1,600 acre agricultural land with an agreement to continued agricultural use.
  • Potential sale of the two mitigation banks, totaling about 450 acres, for continued mitigation use.
  • Developing a long-term strategy for the about 4,000 acres south of State Highway 17 near Jacksonville, known as Block 10, that considers its highest and best use.
  • Exploring additional conservation prospects.

Funds generated through these activities 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.

The contract with The Conservation Fund-led team lasts for one year, with options to renew. One of the first decisions for the team will be determining timelines for pursuing and achieving the various opportunities.

“Fulfillment of the Hofmann 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. “We’re thrilled to have The Conservation Fund, with its long history of success in achieving positive environmental and economic outcomes, help manage the next steps of this process.”

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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