Joe Cox: Hofmann a unique asset

May 17, 2013 

Hofmann unique asset

As a practicing forester employed by N.C. State Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, I must comment on former dean Robert E. Brown’s May 10 letter “Sale of Hofmann Forest would benefit N.C. State.”

First, Hofmann Forest is not owned by the N.C. State Resources Foundation. The Endowment Fund of N.C. State University owns the forest and implemented an agreement with the foundation to manage it. This occurred in the 1970s when the foundation transferred ownership to the fund to avoid real estate taxes.

Hofmann Forest always served as a shining example of sustainable forest management. Students in the Forestry Program at NCSU learn about the intricacies of forest management. At the same time, management of the forest produces income to support the College of Natural Resources.

The forest was paid off years ago, and all of the funds serve as a clear revenue source. It becomes a marginal financial asset only when judged by the same metric used by the endowment fund to measure the returns of mutual funds – return on market value. This is the same logic Wall Street analysts used when forcing the sale of large forests owned by integrated forest-product companies in the last decade. Many of these companies no longer exist, and I think this contributed to their decline. Will this be the start of the decline of the College of Natural Resources?

Dr. Hofmann procured the forest with the vision of its serving as a living laboratory for forest and wildlife professionals to hone their skills in the woods. Hofmann Forest is recognized internationally as a unique asset for teaching, research and demonstration. It serves as a source of identity for natural resource professionals. Those professionals serve here in North Carolina, in the county and around the world.

The decision to sell Hofmann Forest must have been difficult. The board of directors of the foundation did not handle the decision in an open and forthright manner.

This sale is not in the interest of the students in the College of Natural Resources, the faculty and students of N.C. State University and the residents of North Carolina. I implore Dean Mary Watzin and the foundation to stop the sale and start an open, honest and frank dialogue on the future of Hofmann Forest and the College of Natural Resources.

Joe Cox, Raleigh

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

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