The Endowment Fund of N.C. State University has chosen a national nonprofit organization to handle land-use negotiations for the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest.
The Conservation Fund, based in Virginia, has a dual mission of environmental protection and economic development. It was one of 14 entities that sought the contract after NCSU officials announced in March that they would keep most of the forest and seek to generate income for the College of Natural Resources by selling various rights and easements.
The university had earlier agreed to sell the property in Eastern North Carolina for $131 million to a group that included timberland investors and agribusiness officials. Now university officials say they want to conserve as much as 70,000 acres and maintain access for students and faculty.
The Conservation Fund, supported by the Atlanta-based law firm Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan, will seek the carry out the university’s plan for the forest that includes exploring the sale of rights to the Department of Defense to allow continued training on and above as much as 70,000 acres; selling rights to take over timber farming on about 56,000 acres of pine plantation, and negotiatng permanent conservation easements that would permanently protect a sensitive 18,000-acre section of “pocosin” or wetland.
The plan also calls for selling off 1,600 acres of farmland for continued agricultural use and crafting a long-term strategy for about 4,000 acres south of U.S. 17 near Jacksonville that could include making it available for development.
Hofmann Forest was purchased in 1934 by the N.C. Forestry Foundation Inc. for use by the university. The foundation gave the land to the N.C. State Endowment Fund in 1977 for the sole benefit of the College of Natural Resources.