Robert D. Brown: Sale of Hofmann Forest would benefit N.C. State

May 9, 2013 

Sale of Hofmann Forest would benefit N.C. State

As a former dean of N.C. State's College of Natural Resources (2006-12), I feel the May 8 editorial “The secret forest” criticizing Dean Mary Watzin and the NCSU Natural Resources Foundation was unfair.

Of course the foundation cannot make its asking price and restrictions or the offer and other details public. Buyers don’t want their offers made public. Should the current negotiations fall through, the foundation will have to go to another buyer, with perhaps different pricing and/or restrictions on both sides. Hofmann Forest is now and has always been owned by a foundation, not the university or the state.

As for the faculty being heard, the concept of a partial or full sale and/or a conservation easement has been discussed for over two years. The vocal minority of faculty opposed to the sale have met in groups and individually with Dean Watzin, the chair of the foundation and with the college’s development officer. Dr. Fred Cubbage even made a formal presentation opposing the sale to the foundation board.

It seems some people confuse not being heard with being heard but not agreed with. All of the issues raised by those opposed to the sale were discussed in depth by the board before and after these meetings, petitions and presentations.

Evidence shows that the Hofmann Forest has been used very little for teaching or research for the past 70 years. The college has numerous other properties closer to campus with better facilities for those uses. Though some faculty and alumni are obviously emotionally attached to the forest, it is really a financial asset with marginal returns. There is also the possibility of a fire or hurricane damaging that asset.

The endowment provided by the sale will diversify the college’s assets, will more than double the annual income to the college and will provide for student scholarships, fellowships, equipment, facilities and other academic uses, perhaps to make this college the premier natural resources college in the world.

The foundation board has made a very difficult but wise decision after considering all of the pros and cons of selling the forest. We should congratulate the members rather than criticize them.

Robert D. Brown, Cary

The length limit was waived to present a fuller response to the editorial.

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