COLLY — Hans Rohr has been busy for the last six months at his new job as Bladen Lakes State Forest supervisor.
“As you can probably tell from my accent, I grew up in southern Sampson County,” Rohr jokingly said in a distinctly Indo-European accent.
German-born, Rohr attended the University of Munich and studied forest science. He earned the equivalent of a master’s degree from the institution, one of Europe’s most prestigious universities.
In 1991, he and his wife, a native of France, moved to the United States. Rohr and a friend began the Black River Organic Farm and, as he worked the farm, he began to take a particular interest in forestry. Leaving the business, he worked as a consultant forester for private landowners who needed advice with reforestation or other land services.
In 2003, he became assistant county ranger in Sampson County and finally landed in Bladen County as supervisor in March of this year.
“I feel very fortunate to be here,” Rohr said, who took over from the retired Michael Chesnutt.
Bladen Lakes State Forest was donated to Bladen County from the federal government in 1954 under the stipulation that it must be self-sustaining. To that end, it is considered a working forest. Yearly revenues are generated through timber sales, pine straw sales, and charcoal. It is an active partner in the Forest Stewardship Program.
“We have to show the the forest can make money economically and we have to ecologically take care of the water quality while making it aesthetically pleasing for people who visit,” said Rohr. “It’s not like a state park that sits there for people to enjoy; we do a lot of cutting and thinning.”
Carolina bays, sand ridges, and swamps are enjoyed by horseback riders and campers throughout the year on the 100 plus miles of trails and roads. Stargazers find the park’s lack of lighting ideal, and several universities, colleges, and scientific organizations have study sites in the park’s boundaries.
Rohr said as supervisor, he plans to continue selling timber and charcoal and taking care of the endangered red-headed woodpecker. He would also like to see that forest utilized more for horseback riding, hunting and research.
“I love my job,” Rohr said. “I really don’t think I could be any happier.”
Bladen Lakes covers approximately 33,000 acres and is the largest state-owned forest in North Carolina. The majority of the land is in the Game Lands Program, administered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.