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Interview with Fred Cubbage, November 14, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Fred Cubbage, November 14, 2002
November 14, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Cubbage, Fred Interviewer:  Warren, Harry Date of Interview:  11/14/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length


Warren: I’m your camera person Harry Warren and your interviewer with Fred Cubbage, is it Cubbage? I am a southern boy, and for some reason want to pronounce it Cubbage.

Warren: Fred what is your entire name and would you mind spelling it for us?

Cubbage: My entire name is Frederick Willis Cubbage. Do I have to spell the whole thing, or do I just settle for Fred? F-r-e-d, and the last name is C-u-b-b-a-g-e, Cubbage.

Warren: Thank you very much. Where do you hail from Fred and what kind of educational background do you have?

Cubbage: I was raised in Iowa, born in Indiana. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry.

Warren: Where’s that from?

Cubbage: From Iowa State University. Then I worked a couple of years as a service forester in the state of Kentucky from 1974 to ‘76 and then got a Master’s and Ph.D. degree at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul actually from 1978 to 1981. And actually worked on my dissertation or thesis for two years in New Orleans, worked for the forest service there from 1979 to 1982 I guess.

Warren: What was your dissertation on?

Cubbage: Well it was on economics of tract size and timber harvesting costs.

Warren: Interesting. Now what brought you to the Tarheel state?

Cubbage: Well I actually spent about 10 years as a professor at the University of Georgia and then had an opportunity to come up here for the forest service actually at Research Triangle Park and worked as a project leader for the economics research work unit out in RTP. Then they had the position open here after about three years out at RTP and I did apply and received a position as the head of the Department of Forestry in 1994.

Warren: So you actually worked for the North Carolina Forest Service?

Cubbage: No, that was the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, their research branch.

Warren: And you were involved in research I suppose.

Cubbage: Yeah, both in New Orleans, I worked for them as a research economist and then here at RTP I worked as a project leader and economist with the southern research station, or the southern forest experiment station.

Warren: What kind of work does that group do here in North Carolina?

Cubbage: The group that I worked with works largely…the unit was called Economics of Forest Protection and Management which worked on timber supply issues, on economic returns to forestry investments to analysis of land use change and impacts on forestry and even things such as non-market values and international forestry as well.

Warren: You worked there when?

Cubbage: 1991 to 1994.

Warren: And then you came over to NC State?

Cubbage: Right, cut my commute in half.

Warren: Excellent, and as a professor?

Cubbage: As a department head, yeah.

Warren: As department head… so they hired you for this position.

Cubbage: Right, as head right.

Warren: I’m sure you also teach a little bit, do you carry some teaching load?

Cubbage: I do, yeah.

Warren: What courses do you teach?

Cubbage: Currently it’s varied a good bit. I probably taught about six different courses at various times here while I’ve been at NC State. I’m currently teaching the forestry source policy class. It’s actually a natural resource policy and management class, it’s for both natural resources and fishes and wildlife and forestry students. And I’ve taught that actually just twice here, although I’ve taught it in a prior lifetime, I taught it at Georgia. We actually have a book here that we use and I’m the principal author on it. It’s still a widely used book. At the moment probably 10 years old, It’s actually almost nine years old, but it still remains the best selling textbook in forest policy in the world actually.

Warren: And that’s the forest resource policy.

Cubbage: Right, but it’s not quite like John Grisham though. We sell a couple hundred copies a year and we’re doing pretty well. We definitely don’t break a thousand in any given year.

Warren: Excellent, well besides cutting your commute in half, what attracted you to NC State?

Cubbage: Well I’ll be flip, it’s not entirely true, maybe I shouldn’t be flip on camera. So I’ll be less flip.

Warren: This can be edited.

Cubbage: It can be edited? Well I’ll be less flip. I think it was an attractive position. It’s a good institution certainly it’s one of the reasons I was willing to move to North Carolina from Georgia. (Why don’t you find a good chair if you like. You want to make sure you’re getting it all filmed.) So for all of those reasons, it was an attractive institution. Working for the forest service and the government is always a mixed blessing.

You generally have more resources really with the federal government than you do with a state institution or a state museum I suspect as well, right? Smithsonian is probably a little better than Whiteville. You also have a lot more control, you know, agendas perhaps. I think the university, in the end after you’ve been to both the university and the federal government, the trade-offs are autonomy versus resources and in the end I’d rather have a little more autonomy and a little more opportunities. As head, in theory, one has the opportunity to direct programs more. Although, that is yet to be proven perhaps, but we’ll see.

Warren: Just stay a little bit longer with this federal employment. How many people worked at this facility?

Cubbage: In my research work, there were about nine employees. At the forest service lab out there, there are probably no more than 50 employees. It’s a very small branch station of the whole southern experiment station, the southern station is well in excess of 500 employees, but we were just one research work unit as part of that.

Warren: Does this branch station just deal with forestry issues related to North Carolina?

Cubbage: No, southeastern region and actually we had several projects, global international projects. Actually, we had one project that we received from international forestry that lasted about three years in ecotourism, prospects in the state of ____ Brazil which was a delight to look at a different country and get a different perspective on things.

Warren: Now you mentioned that one of the things that was attractive about coming to NC State was its reputation. I’m no forester, but I heard about NC State’s forestry school myself before I even got into the forestry museum business. What had you heard about NC State? What kind of reputation does it have out there in academia?

Cubbage: Well actually coming from Georgia, you always formed a little bit where you start so we always believed we were better in Georgia. Now that I’m in North Carolina I don’t know about that. Really of the premier forestry schools in the country, you can name at best a handful or a few couple more and NC State has always been one of those. Georgia has been one of those for most modern times as well. Virginia Tech is very good and then Oregon, Minnesota and maybe Syracuse and I think you’ve named the top six there basically and State has always been among those numbers.

Warren: I noticed at the SAF meeting this year that I think the Yale people, the Harvard people had had a very strong presence there. There were just a lot of their students running around. But the Ivy Leagues really are playing a second fiddle to some of these others.

Cubbage: Even Yale, I’m amazed there’s anybody there, it’s a pretty small number of students. It’s only at the graduate level. Actually I served on a national research council report which is sort of a major review of the status of forestry research capacity in the United States. Ninety-eight percent of all the forestry graduates come from land grant type institutions or state university systems. So the Yale’s and the Duke’s probably are about a percent of the total graduating population.

Warren: What sort of study was that?

Cubbage: It’s the National Research Council study on forestry research capacities which came out this last year also and it is again sort of a summary of where we stand in forestry research in the nation. Then the National Research Council and the National Academy is sort of the accepted institution that’s an expert on science and the status of science in the country.

So I chaired actually this report and we made recommendations, did a status and assessment and review of forestry research in the country. I worked in helping form recommendations as to how we think we could improve our capacity.

Warren: What is the status of research in this country in summary?

Cubbage: Well like everything, it’s a mixed review. I think we’ve had tremendous advances. We’ve had a much broader field, a lot more diversity of disciplines and interest in forestry and forestry research and really fairly static funding at the federal level. Maybe there’s been some increases actually at the university level.

So like everything, it’s at a crossroad between increases and opportunities for diversity and just intellectual and human diversity as well, yet how do we have enough resources to really move this state of knowledge and our education of students forward and have the next generation of leaders out there. It’s just a continual challenge of all organizations, institutions and professions.

Warren: What’s the state of forestry in North Carolina? Could you comment on that?

Cubbage: Do you have any simple questions here? (laughter).

Warren: Well, I’m interested in a lot of different aspects of that. Particularly the NCFA, there’s a lot of stress in the forestry community between what’s called the enviros versus industry and that sort of thing.

Cubbage: Well I guess certainly if you interview lots of people in different perspectives will bring different a perspective to you. Actually you went to sort of an aside but we’ll be a little casual. You went to the NCFA meeting? Did you go to the NCFA costume ball that night?

Warren: No, I missed the ball.

Cubbage: Anyway I’ll bring you the perspective I brought to the costume ball. I went in my cap and gown for graduation. Didn't have to look very far to find it. I went as an open-minded academic and scared everybody to death (laughter).

Warren: Frankenstein didn't have as much of an effect.

Cubbage: Well actually Bob Slocum went as Darth Mall, he’s the Darth Vader equivalent of the Star Wars prequel.

Warren: I heard there were some interesting costumes including an interesting Chef Boyardee that was bopping around.

Cubbage: Actually Tommy Norris was down there too. So anyway certainly I think as a university, our role is to really foster and encourage sort of an open view and inquiry and see both sides of issues and hopefully explore and occasionally take positions, but be less of an advocacy group and more of an educational understanding in trying to put together how these different views and perspectives of forests contribute to both society’s interest in forests and really the better management of forests for everybody’s benefit.

So enough preamble. So do you want to go back and ask a more specific question or restate it to make sure I’m on task here.

Warren: Well there were several speakers that afternoon that dealt with this and one of the speakers was saying the time for appeasement is over with these environmental groups. We’re gonna fight and he gave some example about what Churchill said about sharks in the water or something like that. How do you feel about that? Is it appeasement?

Cubbage: Well actually let me acknowledge, first of all, that I somehow managed to miss that particular speaker. I’ll take our word for it, but it’s not a perspective that I share. We’re here to explore different ideas. I can’t remember, liberal education indicates that a fascination with new ideas and different ideas is something that you gain an appreciation for as you receive a liberal education.

The hope is that, you know, we instill that open-mindedness somewhat to our professionals and to our students who will graduate. I think sort of the concept of trying to push a polarization of you know, draw a line and you’re either with us or against us and this is a time for man all the guns and shoot all the environmentalists is not a very appropriate approach to moving forward, I think the benefits we gain from the forests in the state nor the influence we may have as a profession of forestry. The farther… the deeper we draw that line and the further we draw it to the right, the fewer people we’ll find standing over there with us.

Warren: Right, well they’re saying that people have drawn the same line over on the left.

Cubbage: Yeah, I think both sides that are trying to foster the bait or polarization are trying to exaggerate differences and capitalize on that exaggeration for their own gain to some extent. It’s not a view that I personally share. I think really there’s a host of people who are very positive about forestry including the industry itself, you know, the major forest products, a sustainable forest, is a much more positive, proactive, environmentally friendly approach to managing our forests.

You know we’ll get the job done better and get people to work with us better in providing us with that social license to operate in an effective manner and manage our forests.

Warren: Do you think from an academic perspective, the North Carolina Forest Association has a good approach to the issues involving forestry?

Cubbage: I don’t think I want to take a position on that really. You know their position certainly is much more an advocacy group and certainly I think they fight well and fight extremely good in the legislature. Bob Slocum is super effective, but that doesn’t mean that I would agree with all the positions they take nor necessarily tactics even at times.

You know, I think in terms of representing the operational issues on a day to day basis, they’re very effective. Whether that’s moving us forward or whether we move forward as an advocacy in a debate or whether we move forward as a discussion and move towards common interests is really what that speaker was speaking about. As a middle of the road academician, I’m much more supportive of looking for common interests than looking for differences that will set us against each other.

Warren: I feel just in my couple of years dealing with foresters that both of these groups have more in common than they’re willing to admit.

Cubbage: They have vast amounts in common.

Warren: Really, it’s just getting them to sit around the table and developing some trust.

Cubbage: We have a new program called the FLIP program, it’s the Forest Land Incentives Program. It’s a major federal grant and funding that’s come through. It’s basically, in the old days, it was basically the cost share programs to help you plant trees. Now this new program, the proposal that’s out and I hope it will stand will be some funds for planting trees, but some for broader timber stand improvement and improving natural stands doing more for the 97% of our forests that aren’t in plantations and 30% or 40%, I don’t remember which, is either for wildlife or habitat improvement.

It’s sort of a broader spectrum of forestland improvement opportunities. I think that’s a nice model for both how the government should intervene, not the government should always be involved and tell people what to do or make payments, but if the government intervention is there, if forests have any purposes, then government involvement I think should reflect that.

Warren: One of the issues they talked about a lot that morning was forest certification and it was well received and spoke very well and got a little humor in there to boot which we always appreciate.

Cubbage: That’s cause I wasn’t on film (laughter).

Warren: What’s the state of forest certification in North Carolina?

Cubbage: Well really there’s only three major organizations, maybe four if you include one forest products firm that I’m aware of, that are certified.

Warren: Let me back up one second Fred. Tell us what is forest certification.

Cubbage: Sure, okay, that would be fine. Okay, so forest certification, there are sort of two views as I said in my talk if you got to hear it in Nashville. Basically what it is and then there are sort of value judgments that kind of fall out from that I guess, forest certification is basically having some type of external organization and auditors come and examine your forest management and certify that you’re performing it up to environmental social and economic standards that seem appropriate for both your private property and for the general public interests that there might exist in those forests.

So there have been competing certification approaches. The main ones in the U.S. realistically are the Sustainable Forestry Initiative which is sponsored by the American Forest Products and Paper Association initially is becoming somewhat independent, but still does require funding really from the forest products firms for the brunt if its support.

The second is the Forest Stewardship Council which is really sponsored initially by environmental organizations, ENGO’s, environmental non-government organizations and it is focused initially on really protecting rights of people, native people in the tropics really and then environmental protection, but now involves sort of a smaller economic component, but still has a strong focus on environmental protection and stake holder involvement and concern for neighbors and more socially oriented issues.

So those are the two major competitors. We did get both of those certifications for NC State, Duke and North Carolina Division of Forest Resources lands. There are also a couple of more minor ones, the Tree Farm one which is not quite a certification program yet and then Green Tag which is a small program started by a person from NC State so it’s obviously a great program, but it’s still very small.

The general premise behind them is that by having external people review your management, provide opinions, certify that you both have plans, policies and actions that meet environmental, social and economic criteria that you are doing an excellent job in your forest management.

Warren: Kind of like arms inspectors (laughter).

Cubbage: In the worst case, actually we’re teaching a course in this right now with one of the guys in procurement from one of the firms here, he spent 20 years in the Air Force and says it’s like the Air Force. You know, every year somebody came by to make sure the planes would fly, that we were doing our maintenance right and following procedures.

Warren: We called it an IG.

Cubbage: He said you know this is any different really, it’s just we’re not used to having people do that in forestry, but they have people do that for International Paper, they have ISO-9000 which is basically labor conditions, working conditions, OSHA, making sure that you meet your standards. So it’s just extending it to the next step to basically environmental principles and management on course.

Warren: How long has this certification concept been in play?

Cubbage: Only about seven years, ten at the most.

Warren: Not very long at all. Is it catching on?

Cubbage: Well the SFI covers basically all of the industry lands already in the United States so it’s caught on. It is the industry’s kinder, gentler and more consensus approach to ensuring that people believe that they’re managing their forests well and demonstrating specifically that that’s the case so I would say it’s more than caught on.

It’s now mandatory if you’re a member of the American Forest and Paper Association that you must be certified, well not certified, but you must subscribe to the SFI principles. Now the third party part where you have an inspector come and visit is not universally required, but most of the major firms are doing that as well to provide a higher level of credibility of that external review, to make sure that they’re performing sound and practical forestry.

Warren: Is there resistance to this program?

Cubbage: Well again you went to the NCFA meeting and we had Bob Chambers talk. In effect my illusion when I started this is that one view is that this is a positive way for forestry move forward and show the public we’re managing our forests well which is what the AFMPA, the industry wanted. They believed that the industry had a poor perception. They had cute little charts they show at all their meetings of the industry, the poor perception and bad practices and wanted to move into good practices and a good perception and this was how they were going to get there was through certification.

The other view of that that Bob Chambers of course presented is that it’s really communism in having somebody come in and tell you what to do with your land. He didn't put it this way, but basically it’s changing the property rights you have and it’s sort of a subtle or not so subtle attack on your property rights to do as you please.

So those are sort of the two poles. The industry has adopted it for about 40 million acres of their land so it would suggest that it’s well received and including Canada I think it’s 100 million acres of land that’s under SFI. I don’t have the numbers actually on hand, but maybe 20 million acres in North America are probably under SFC. In the world, I do have the number. I don’t have it for the U.S. at my fingertips, but I think it’s maybe 15% of all U.S. land is certified which is a significant chunk. Most of that’s industry. Then in the world, I think it’s 12% or so. I could actually pull those out if you want to jump off camera. I’ve got those numbers pretty accessible.

Warren: I remember bits and pieces of a lot of things I heard that morning and one speaker from Home Depot I believe said that it had virtually no effect in the store even though they are adhering to it. It doesn’t seem to affect the average consumer looking to buy some wood to do a project in the backyard.

I don’t think it was this fellow, but another fellow said that you all better get used to it because this is the way it’s going to be. It seems like these points are kind of going in the opposite direction or are they?

Cubbage: Actually I don’t remember the speakers well enough so I’ll just sort of address the question, I guess. You know certainly the hope is that certification, all this external review would provide you with better management and you’d receive a better price for doing that and the public would recognize it.

In reality as Jarvis kind of eluded to, what it’s done is now you have 600 protestors in their stores at Home Depot and they don’t need that. We’ve actually talked to some people at Lowe’s as well about sort of their views on this and they said, well men comprise less than half our buyers. Lumber is only 7% of our business. We don’t need 500 protestors from Rainforest Action Network closing our stores and keeping women from buying stoves and carpets.

So really it’s a social pressure on the retailers who have been the most vulnerable and tangible target to his. So really what it’s doing is providing the retailers a mechanism to say that they are trying their best to ensure that the products that they procure are managed acceptably. And of course the major… They’re not unique. Time-Life and many others, AOL, those firms are also seeking insurances that the paper we use for printing paper, that the newsprint is also procured in a responsible manner.

So it’s these major firms, you know, the last thing Time-Life wants is having the Rainforest Action Network unfurl a banner from the top of their building in New York City. Really, we’ve heard them speak and say things like this as well. I think David Refkin is the guy with Time-Life that’s one of the real leaders in trying to get certification extended throughout the forestry community.

I think it’s more working on sort of the social license to practice forestry by doing so in a responsible manner just as in the past it was a social license to produce goods and services without child labor or some other things. Not that all of a sudden you get better prices, but you basically get acceptance of your goods in the market place by the retailers who are the fulcrum of this rather than the consumers who are maybe not as wise or knowledgeable, don’t have the time to sort this all out when they go to the shelf.

Warren: You just run a little interference here.

Cubbage: Right, certainly it’s been a strategy of the ENGO’s and the more radical ones to use civil disobedience and pressure to really affect retail decisions. It’s not a unique strategy. It’s a strategy that’s been used since labor unions, since Gandhi and many others. You find the pressure point and then try to influence behavior based on actions at that point.

But the ENGO’s, it’s not like they’re just a group of left wing nuts per say, they reflect…you know, every major opinion, in fact I suspect, I didn't hear it, but when they did the opinions of people about forestry in North Carolina, that most were very pro environment, pro conservation, anti-business which is sort of the view of the larger population, but only a few of those are active enough to make a difference.

Warren: When did we become so sensitive to the issues of the forests and the environment? I was over at forest services yesterday and I asked one of the key people over there that question and she said well you know we used to just have the white hat, we couldn’t do any wrong.

Cubbage: Well that’s been a long time though.

Warren: When did things start to change and why?

Cubbage: Well I think you know foresters probably, I mean they haven’t had sort of an image of being wise professional decision makers which is what we seek and what we hope that our students will become to some extent. Gifford Pinchot, the early foresters actually interestingly enough, the early foresters and most especially Pinchot campaigned for federal regulation of all forests.

Gifford Pinchot in 1919 chaired the Committee for Application of Forestry. Pinchot’s primary thesis from 1919 until he died, I don’t know the date he died, was that we should have the federal control of all private forests and have regulation. Foresters had the white hat because they felt that forests were mismanaged and we should have regulations and rules to manage those forests better which of course is the antithesis of what NCFA and many foresters believe today.

They believe that forests are managed better by markets and that the government should stay out of it. So I don’t know that we actually switched with our views, but our views became much more belief that through growing trees better, letting markets figure out how to pay for this and focusing on timber management, investments, silvaculture, biology, we’d be better off than focusing on what nature and business would like.

Maybe when we switch to being business persons focusing on maximizing profits preferably, our stock fell a little bit when we were working for the government saying that the government should have control of these lands. I don’t know. I haven’t really answered this question before. It’s an interesting conjecture.

More tangibly probably our reputation as a profession began to decline in the 60’s in particular as we went through a number of series, the profession got more into pines, plantations, clear cutting as an even age management tool, massive fir cuts on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana which were eventually even by the dean of the school at that time shown to be wasteful and uneconomic.

Five or ten years in the Monongahela National Forest, every congress member, every senator, every representative asked the forest service to stop clear cutting and the professionals kept clear cutting. We created an image not of conservationists trying to protect against forest destruction, but rather promoters of clear cutting at best if not even creators of destruction with problems all the way from Montana to West Virginia.

Both in the Montana case which suggested in the Bole Report who is the former dean of the Montana school that the forestry profession had made serious biological and social and economic mistakes. In the Monongahela Forest we lost a major court case in the Monongahela decision which said we no longer would have the ability to clear cut a national forest because the forest service was not following the 1897 Organic Act which said that each tree must be marked and cut.

So I think as we maybe got carried away with the biology of the wonders of clear cutting and how it regenerates pioneer species, you’d get good pine trees, you’d end up with desirable oak, hickory and poplar and ignored the fact that we were polluting streams, killing fish and making ugly sights, the image of our profession turned for the worse perhaps.

Warren: And the 60’s of course was that decade.

Cubbage: Well yes, then in the 70’s it was the decade squared right. Really our image became promoters of clear cutting at best and you could say it less tactfully than that. I think now we try to have both a broader view, ecosystem management, land ethics, all of these things that we think are appropriate and try to work with the profession and the students on that and certainly have a broad diversity in the profession that use that.

But a huge focus even of our programs of course at NC State and other places throughout the south is planned plantations, productivity, maximum fiber growth to provide the wood that the world will need and provide science and technology that gives us kind of reductionist answers to be able to do things that have clear gains for all involved. That still don’t give us the kinder and gentler image that maybe in the old days when Pinchot was selecting individual trees in Asheville at the Biltmore Estates as compared to our intensive practices that we have throughout much of the industrial land in the southeast.

Warren: You think the image is starting to turn around though?

Cubbage: I think it certainly is, but I don’t think, you know draw a line in the sand and man all the gun boats will do anything to enhance that.

Warren: Right, well let’s back on campus. You mentioned what you’re doing here. How many forestry students does NC State have here?

Cubbage: In the Department of Forestry we have 140 students currently plus or minus a couple at the undergraduate level and actually we have more than 100 graduate students in the Department of Forestry, but only than half of those at best are probably forestry students.

The Department of Forestry actually has five or six programs and forestry is one of those. Fishing, wildlife, natural resources, environmental sciences, hydrology and verminal technology and actually we have two natural resources so we have a broad spectrum of programs with about 260 total students. So forestry is still the largest program.

Warren: About 140?

Cubbage: 140 in forestry.

Warren: What are some of the courses you offer?

Cubbage: Like any forestry program will have sort of four large disciplines. I actually served on the Society of American Foresters Committee and Accreditation for six years. SAF requires and we provide measurements, management, policy administration and biology are the four principal areas.

It ranges from silvics to silvaculture, how trees grow to how stands grow to how do you measure them to growth and yield projections to management which would be harvesting and scheduling to economics to policy which of course I teach. You know, what are these laws, how do we work with the public, how are we effective working in public venues.

Warren: The 140 forestry students approximately you have today, is that ever growing? Compared to the 1950’s, how many forestry students did you have?

Cubbage: It’s gone up and down. We may be almost the same as in 1950, I’m not sure. Probably the cycles if I get them right, I may be a little off, but I can only go back as far as I’ve heard folklore of, it’s probably less in the 50’s, probably rose to a couple hundred students in the 60’s, actually declined pretty precipitously in the 70’s to maybe 100. Early 70’s there was quite an increase, sort of the whole environmental movement.

Maybe it was the early to mid-80’s it actually declined quite a bit.

Warren: Do you think that was a reflection of that growing image problem we talked about?

Cubbage: I don’t know if you could have a cause and effect. That’s too much conjecture, but it goes up and down. I think with environment action, forestry was very popular, but with other environmental careers and professions came, it became less sexy than environmental science or some natural resources disciplines that were really begun in the 80’s for all intensive purposes.

Then we’ve had some growth, but then in the last three or four years we’ve had declines in forestry which have been moderately commensurate with declines in employment opportunities. Basically our students have gotten jobs, we’ve done pretty well with that. Industries are reducing size. They’re not increasing. The forest service hasn’t hired a forester in a decade probably than the U.S. Forest Service. The state forest service is probably one of our bigger employers and forest consultants are some of our bigger employers.

Warren: I was going to ask you, this is still a pretty employable profession.

Cubbage: So far. Even last year which was a bad economic year, at least half of the students had jobs after six months and that’s the half that I know. The other ones I suspect a number have those, but I just don’t know the students that well. It’s usually been about 90% over the last decade.

Warren: Why does a person go into forestry? Is there a stereotypical forestry student?

Cubbage: Of course, of course and I’m not one of those (laughter). Maybe it’s why I’m in policy and economics. But certainly the stereotypical forester is there for hunting, fishing and working outdoors and I’m half of that for sure. I went into forestry because I certainly didn't want to spend my life in an office before a video cam. If I wanted to work for WREL, I would have been across the street. Certainly that’s the attraction.

That’s probably less of it when you come in, but eventually I think you develop sort of at least a natural resource management view of the world and ethic and like everybody, like the profession that you choose not just for what it attracts you, but also the substance and the merits of natural resource management that persists.

Warren: I’ve had a lot of foresters, young and old, tell me that they grew up on a farm and grew up in the outdoors. Would you say that’s generally true?

Cubbage: It’s about half true. Not that it’s untrue or totally true. Half of the students we have, that is the case and for North Carolina that would be proportional to the population really. Half of North Carolina is still rural, 47% or something. I don’t think it’s as striking as you might think. I think it reflects more where the population comes from. We probably… maybe we have a little more than half of our students coming from rural.

If nothing else, even if they’re coming from urban, they’re still people who have been outdoors. If they haven’t been hunting and fishing, they’ve been biking, climbing, scouting, camping things. So they’re people who at least spend a lot of time outdoors.

Warren: NC State land grant college started in the 19th century. When did the school of forestry begin?

Cubbage: I don’t remember the exact date. It’s either 1929 which I don’t think although it’s conceivable or it’s 1937. It may be as early as ’29. We can look up the exact dates for you.

Warren: It would be interesting if it was the start of the Depression. The makeup of your student body has changed a lot. I’ve seen some photographs of those early classes and of course it was all men, but now you see a lot of women in forestry. Well I don’t know about a lot but some.

Cubbage: I think that’s about right. Certainly it was all men until the 70’s. Even in my graduating, in ’74 there were two women and that was in a progressive Midwestern state and I suspect there were fewer than that here probably. It’s still only about 15% to 20% of NC State’s student population in forestry. Now in the other programs, it’s a much higher proportion, natural resources and environment.

Warren: There’s not much ethnic diversity it seems in forestry. Is that a fair statement?

Cubbage: It’s an accurate statement for sure. Certainly that’s, we make value judgments. Maybe it’s unfortunate and we’d like to be a little more diverse. As I indicated, I think intellectual diversity and human diversity is great. Ecosystem diversity is nice in fact. But as an open-minded academic, that might not be shared by everyone.

But I think there’s also certainly in the south where you’d have a quarter or more of the population being African American and actually these days 10% of the population being Hispanic perhaps, you’d expect a greater diversity. Of course for the average American population working outside and doing pitch and pine tar was an exploitive job in the old days and it’s something that they probably look forward to as a profession.

Hey there, Art?

Warren: Are you gonna be in that little conference room.

Cubbage: Actually if you wanna use this I’m supposed to leave, if you wanna just stay here you could just close the door behind you it might make your life easier. In about 10 minutes or so I’m gonna have to give up anyway.

Warren: Right, right. Well we’re about concluded here anyway. I could talk to you for a long time.

Cubbage: Yeah well I’m sure you can with everybody. If you are really interested, if you ask good questions. But anyway you’re very good however…

Warren: Well even though I’ve got… with you good talking people I usually take it down to the very last minute, we’ve got 20 minutes left on this tape, but if you’ve got to go…

Cubbage: For about 10 minutes if I could, I was a little late I apologize.

Warren: That’s ok, we’ll wind things down here.

Cubbage: They’ll condemn me if I stay out here too long.

Warren: If you’ll let me come back and talk to you again.

Cubbage: That’d be fine, I can’t imagine you’d find me that interesting.

Warren: Oh no, you were great. You don’t have any idea how much I’ve learned from all of this. And I’m a museum person.

Cubbage: We should just give all these tapes to persons who have different viewpoints, so we can shoot each other that would be great.

Have you interviewed Butch?

Warren: Oh yeah, he was very… he was number one, he was our guinea pig.

Cubbage: I’d love to see what his comments were.

Warren: Butch is very middle of the road. He said to me, we roomed at NCFA that he’ll be happy when he can go to an NCFA meeting where it’s more positive, where the speakers are not dwelling on the negative.

Cubbage: He’s the ultimate, quiet, conscientious professional.

Warren: As a museum professional, I couldn’t ask for a better board president because he truly is into this museum and loves it and supports me. It’s been great and I wouldn’t be where I am today as far along if it hadn’t been for his support.

But getting back to you Fred, cause I’m running out of minutes here, I’m a little off course myself, what do you think are some of the major issues facing forestry in North Carolina today?

Cubbage: That’s an actually harder question than you’d think to answer. Certainly it depends on your hat so let’s take a few hats and I’ll throw them in the ring. Let’s take our role as educators first since that’s what I guess I am. Certainly I think having talented students, having good students, we call it the Harvard effect. The better the students you have, the better the product you have. So I think getting good students attracted to this field…in a way as I indicated even with the diversity issue, we’re a little bit fighting the agrarian redneck image. So what we want to be is sharp rednecks and we want people to go out and work in the woods, work with people who work in the business, work with ecosystems. You’ve got to be a little rugged to be out there doing this as your job, but you’ve got to have as much acumen and as much professionalism as you can to bring to the table.

As educators, finding people with good skills and educating them so that they have the appropriate skills for society and for the management jobs we’ve got that is challenge number one as in every profession. Our challenge may be that we attract people because of the nature of the fun of going outdoors, but that isn’t always attracting the students who have the highest academic credentials to start with so how do you mix that in and how do you do the best with what you have and improve what you get. That’s important and we try to do that well. I think we actually do it very well at NC State both at getting good students, they have to be good to get into the institution anyway, and doing good programs with them when they arrive, so that’s in education.

I think looking at it let’s say from a landowner’s view and I am a forest landowner in Georgia. I bought some land when I was in Georgia. I bought 100 acres down there. Sort of the challenges of having a good income from forestland and production, basically timber growing really, managing it in a moderately responsible way. I don’t manage my land as ecosystem management. I’ve got 80 acres of pine plantation and 25 of woodlands and stream buffers and hardwoods basically.

The issues there are managing well, getting decent prices just like the when you talked to Butch, who’s going to buy this pulpwood. It used to be $20 a ton when I sold it four years ago and it’s $5 a ton now. These are issues. That’s not just an issue of companies and what they’re doing, but companies in a world market so we’re competing with people in Argentina that are getting $2 a ton for their pulpwood and $12 a ton for their soft timber.

So this is the market we’re in. Fortunately it takes them too much to ship it here. But we have big issues with adequate returns and markets and then on the other hand, you have pressure from the Atlanta’s, the Charlotte’s, the Raleigh’s, to use this land for purposes other than forest. Certainly we have to ensure that they are reasonable returns for forest landowners if we like to keep land in forest which is where forestry associations and people concerned with regulations. Anything that increases those costs, increases returns, encourages conversion to other uses, not conversion to plantation.

So I think those are big issues both from a landowner’s viewpoint and from society’s broader viewpoint, you know, do we like forests and wildlife and trees and bald eagles and things that are in forests or do we like larger profits and real estate investment trusts and shopping malls. How do we maintain the balance of these.

Certainly North Carolina is the prototypical case of segueing into the broader view is urbanization, tradeoffs between an agrarian economic development in the rural land and provide good jobs and good income for people versus turning 20% of the state into a city who’s natural values are very low. Social values, educational values are of course all great. You always end up with two states, the rich cities and the poor return farmland or forest land perhaps.

Warren: Let me ask you one question relating to students. If I was a student and I was thinking about going into forestry and I came to you for some counsel and I would ask you, I’m thinking about getting a forestry degree, what would I have to do? What kind of courses? What would I do? What kind of response would you give me?

Cubbage: I’d give you the response 20 times a year, but basically it’s pretty much a standard science based curriculum that has a moderate amount of management principles, overlaying that business type principles, but certainly the standard core high school requirements, more math, more science, math through calculus if you can get it, AP math if you can get it, chemistry, biology, certainly physics is useful. It’s good to be able to be a good communicator.

In the end the thing that all our employers say if you’re going to advance in the profession, nobody has been held back very often by technical skills. Most people who graduate from a forestry school have a set of technical skills. They’ll identify trees. They’ll know how to manage, they’ll know silvaculture. They’ll be able to do many of those things, things that make you really advance well is to be able to communicate in person, in writing, be able to present your ideas effectively in public groups or to your peers.

There’s nothing that’s not important as a well rounded person although certainly there’s sort of the biology science focus where the curriculum starts, but then it builds to a broader set of management and personnel skills.

Warren: Has this always been basically true?

Cubbage: It really has. It really has.

Warren: I mean technology changes…

Cubbage: Yeah, we’re getting a lot more sophisticated and a lot more complex and we get fewer hours to teach people so basically we’re talking about how to change that curriculum to provide new things, provide GIS information systems, computer mapping and trade that off for physics or chemistry. So you change the set of skills, but it’s still technical skills with communication and policy applications as well.

Warren: This is a little quirky question and then we’ll finish up. Any particular student that stands out in your mind of all the students that you’ve seen over the years?

Cubbage: Well you know I’ve had a lot of graduate students, that’s what all these black books are, so all of them will be unique in some respect and have a lot of talents, but that’s probably not so fair at the undergraduate level I guess. If I had to pick an undergraduate, pure and simple, I’d pick three. So one of my advisees just graduated, a guy named Doug Hightower, he’s been a very sharp student, but you’d have never known it for about the first two years, not picking on Doug, and he’s out working I think with a forestry consultant, started last year.

I had him in a procurement class that I taught last year with Bob Slocum and Doug Duncan actually. He just performed well on exams. He was kind of engaged. The class wasn’t a real interactive class. Doug just really was kind of quiet and presented himself well and has gone far and I think he’s a prototypical forester, somebody who comes in because they like to work outside and then they move on and advance. He hasn’t gone far, but he’s got his first job right away and I think he’d be a great candidate.

The aprotypical forester that I remember most is probably Terry Bates who’s now the Washington office lobbyist and representative for the Professional Forestry Schools and Colleges and Deans. Terry is a woman, it’s Mary Theresa Bates, everybody just call her Terry I think. She got a degree actually in political science at UVA and then got a degree at Georgia with me as an undergraduate. I became at least a mentor perhaps and worked with the Association of State Foresters, lobbyists in D.C. and worked with one other organization before she’s now the Professional Forestry School dean of colleges, Washington representative. She’d be the atypical, but in my policy arena, you can’t be much better than this.

Actually, her dad has worked for Jimmy Carter and done some other things. He owns 5,000 or 10,000 acres of forest in Georgia so she was interested in forestry and has a big picture view of the world.

The most atypical of all is a guy named Blake. He came to Georgia, he was an assistant state forester’s son. He had a hard time getting him into school. We finally got him in. He didn't do all that well and he graduated and we thought well this is a failure. He moved to Charlotte and he owned 19 Waffle Houses within about five years, probably makes more money than any of us. So there’s a few good examples for you.

Warren: Well Fred, I sure do appreciate this and is there anything you’d like to add before we end.

Cubbage: Well I’d sure like to see this tape before you distribute to the rest of the world. I’d have an opportunity for any editing comments that will protect the innocent (laughter).

Warren: How old are you Fred?

Cubbage: 51 right now.

Warren: A young man.

Cubbage: Well I’m not as young as I used to be.

Warren: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Cubbage: Well thank you Harry. It was a delight.

Warren: I enjoyed it a lot.

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