Hofmann Forest sale sparks protest

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Continuing backlash against the proposed sale of Hofmann Forest has reached Chancellor Randy Woodson's doorstep, where protestors installed a mini-installation of the forest Monday morning.

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  • Ron Sutherland

The proposed sale of the forest has had to jump through several bureaucratic hoops over the past several months, but is nearing completion. The N.C. State Natural Resources Foundation, which controls the forest, has identified a potential buyer and is waiting for final approval of the sale from the university's Board of Trustees of its endowment fund.

A group of five protestors organized a cluster of baby pine trees at the gate to the chancellor's residence and hung banners in hopes of having Woodson postpone the sale.

Woodson has not yet returned INDY Week's call for comment.

The proposed sale has drawn widespread criticism, but Monday's protest was the first action tied to an environmental group. The event was led by Ron Sutherland, an N.C. State graduate and conservation scientist for Wildlands Network.

He and his fellow protestors have two demands for Chancellor Woodson:

1) "We want him to stop the sale of Hofmann Forest until the NCSU community has a real chance to debate the seemingly dubious rationale that has been used so far by the Natural Resources Foundation to justify liquidating what is one of the university's largest assets," wrote Sutherland in an email to INDY Week.

2) "We also want him to confirm publicly that Hofmann will not be sold ever unless a permanent working forest easement is put in place for the entire 80,000 acre (125 square mile!) property, protecting it from urban development and safeguarding its importance for wildlife conservation. Its not good enough for them to say they're negotiating the deal and the details are confidential - the easement should be an up-front, publicly acknowledged requirement and not something to negotiate away," Sutherland continued.

College of Natural Resources Dean Mary Watzin and Natural Resources Foundation director David Ashcraft have not released any details of the sale. Instead, they have asked interested parties to trust that the founding principles of the forest will be kept in mind.

A petition which originated in the college has drawn more than 800 signatures.

Monday's protest was hampered by poor weather, final exams and a lack of organizing skills, according to Sutherland.

"As an artistic installation it was pretty successful," he says. "But apparently my flash mob organizing skills leave something to be desired." Sutherland tried to keep the event secret and attempted to organize through back channels, rather than using social media.

The natural resources foundation has not, currently, released the identity of the potential buyer or the offer price. The board of trustees next meeting is scheduled for September, but a special meeting could be called to approve the sale of the Hofmann.

Woodson sits on the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund, which has already approved the sale of Hofmann Forest once.

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