Who will own and control 80,000 acres of forest in Jones and Onslow counties is still undecided.
The Save Hofmann Forest group says there was once a closing date of June 30 for the forest to be sold to an Illinois agricultural group, but that date has come and gone. Now they're pushing harder than ever to save the forest, warning people local beaches could be hurt by the sale.
A leader of the Save Hofmann Forest movement and lawsuit, which is trying to stop the sale of the forest by North Carolina State University, says a recent post on its Facebook page shows how development of the land could pollute Emerald Isle beaches.
The post is getting a lot of attention. A picture showing the White Oak River flowing from Hofmann Forest to the ocean inlet near Emerald Isle has been shared more than 300 times since it was posted Sunday.
Jessica Hult is President of the White Oak River chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, a conservancy group. She says the forest is an important sand filter. If the forest is developed and too many trees are cut down, Hult says it could affect future trips to Emerald Isle and Topsail beaches.
"We're going to have a lot more beach closures if we don't have that filtration system in place," says Hult. "We'll have lots of runoff and bacteria coming in and nothing to filter it."
Hult says the Castle Hayne Aquifer, which provides fresh water to several Eastern North Carolina communities, could also be affected. It empties at North Topsail Beach.
Save Hofmann Forest group is also expressing concern about pesticides and fertilizer from farmland that could take over some of the forest.
Walker AG, the Illinois buyer, has not said exactly how the land would be developed. The company said last fall that there would not be large residential or commercial development in the forest.
WITN checked on Tuesday, and the person who answered the phone at Walker AG couldn't say if the sale was still on. So far lawsuits have held up the deal.
An NC State spokesman says there still is no closing date for the sale of Hofmann Forest.