Leadership Hall Spotlight: Sam Cook

Established by World Forestry Center in 1971, Leadership Hall was created to honor those who have advanced our understanding of forests and their importance to society.

In September 2020, the World Forestry Center’s Board of Directors voted to induct into Forestry Leadership Hall, Sam Cook – a veteran forester, educator, mentor, and advocate for all landowners with an emphasis on historically under-served forest landowners. Cook is the Executive Director of Forest Assets for the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University and Vice President for the Natural Resources Foundation Board. In this role, he manages 10 forest properties that drive research and bring in over $4 million annually for the college.

Prior to returning to his alma mater in 2016, Cook was a forester managing procurement for nine mills at International Paper Company and then the Director of Forestry for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, which works to provide educational, legal, and technical assistance to help historically under-served landowners to retain and manage their forestland for greater income.

In 2017, Cook was awarded SAF’s inaugural Diversity Leadership Award, which recognizes members that are leading innovative diversity and inclusion efforts. He also received the Henry Hardtner Award from The Southern Group of State Foresters. This award recognizes a forester working to promote forest stewardship and building conservation partnerships.

Cook is perhaps most passionate about his work with Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Network. Launched in 2012 with the support of African American-led community-based organizations, the Network provides resources to help minority forest owners to retain their land and become advocates for working forests. The program spans across eight states and utilizes innovative partnerships ranging from federal and state agencies to industry and conservation partners. Cook develop a youth component that introduces South Carolina middle schoolers to opportunities in the environmental, forestry, and agricultural fields.

Cook is actively working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the forestry and natural resources fields. He has been described as “widening the trail” through his commitment to recruiting and mentoring students who have not been exposed to the opportunities in the field.

Room with wooden floors, walls, beams, chests of drawers and carved totem pole

Support a Sustainable Forestry Champion

If you would like to support Sam with a gift, please donate online, or contact Merrit Thompson at mthompson@worldforestry.org.

Your gift will help assure Sam a proper place among the celebrated leaders in Forestry Leadership Hall, but it will also support our public programming, which addresses the most pressing issues affecting the health of our forests and communities and deepening the public’s engagement with forestry.