Hoke Community Forest
Resourceful Community Staffers discuss plans in Hoke Community Forest. Photo by Natalie Abbassi/RCP/The Conservation Fund.
Resourceful Communities Program
Resourceful Communities has led the effort to establish Hoke Community Forest since the early planning stages. Initially purchased by The Conservation Fund, Resourceful Communities worked with Hoke County leaders to raise all funds to secure the property, develop a sustainable management forest management plan, recruit volunteers, and build on-site recreational infrastructure. We continue to work with other communities to follow Hoke County’s model of community forestry. Learn more about Resourceful Communities. >>
Hoke Community Forest, the first community forest in the Southeastern United States, serves as an innovative model for communities struggling to balance conservation and economic goals. The 532-acre property, located north of the county seat Raeford and about a mile south of Fort Bragg, is the result of a unique public-private partnership that includes the county, state and federal governments, community groups and youth leaders. It will be actively managed for conservation, economic, recreation, educational and community benefits.
Challenges To Conservation
Both conservation and economic development are major issues in Hoke County. Land conservation is driven by a variety of factors: the U.S. Army promotes a development buffer around Fort Bragg and conservationists actively seek to preserve and protect both the unique Sandhills ecosystem and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
While Hoke County leaders recognized the importance of conservation, they were resistant to conservation efforts. Hoke County, one of the most economically distressed counties in the state, had little say in where and how conservation happened in their communities, and land conservation meant a loss of much-needed tax revenue.
The Triple Bottom Line
An innovative solution to balance the county’s economic and conservation goals was launched: Hoke Community Forest. The Conservation Fund, which initially purchased the property from International Paper, helped the county raise funds to purchase the property. Our forestry experts designed a sustainable forest management plan that protects critical wildlife habitat and water quality, while providing revenue to the county. The property will be managed by an entity that includes community members, forestry and conservation experts, Army personnel and local officials.
The project has been designed to provide “triple bottom line” benefits to the community, including:
- Environmental: A water-quality easement covers about a third of the property, ensuring that two critical streams, Rockfish and Nicholson Creeks, are protected. Loblolly pine stands are being converted to native longleaf pine, creating future red-cockaded woodpecker habitat. Environmental education programming will engage young residents in learning the importance of protecting natural resources and the significance of the unique Sandhills ecosystem.
- Economic: Sustainable harvest of timber stands will generate income and enable restoration of longleaf pine stands. Pine straw will be sustainably harvested to generate operating revenues.
- Social: Hoke Community Forest will provide opportunities for passive recreation, environmental education as well as the first publicly-accessible horseback riding trails in the County. Boy Scouts have provided community service and earned Eagle badges building trails and other recreational infrastructure.