Alumni Spotlight: The Hoefer Brothers

New Traditions: Three Brothers Share Unlikely Path to Forestry and CSU

Jon, David and Philip Hoefer seemed destined to become “preachers of the Gospel.”  Their father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather were all ministers, and 
their father encouraged them to follow in those footsteps. While active in the church, the three brothers started a new family tradition - each pursuing their shared passion for adventure and working in natural resources and all graduating from Colorado State University with degrees in forestry.

Originally from Rochester, N.Y. and then St. Louis, Mo., the Hoefer brothers were very active in the Boy Scouts growing up and loved taking family vacations out West. Their mother had attended a summer equestrian class at Colorado A & M and kept ties to Fort Collins – setting the stage for the oldest of the brothers, Jon, to forge his path to forestry at CSU. His two younger brothers were happy to follow in his footsteps, and each went on to have unique and successful forestry careers.
Today, Jon and David are both retired from the U.S. Forest Service and Philip is retired from the Colorado State Forest Service. All of the brother’s started forestry consulting firms after their agency retirement, are still active in the professional Society of American Foresters, and remain dedicated to the advancement of forest and land stewardship
Jon had always been interested in the outdoors, and discovered his calling in high school while researching career options. He came across a book on forestry careers, and decided then that was what he was going to do. A few years later he had the chance to meet a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park during a vacation to Colorado, and on the same trip met a friend of his mother’s who had a basement room for rent in Fort Collins and told Jon about the great forestry school at A & M.

“You couldn't ask for a better arrangement and so it was a done deal that I started as a freshman in 1951,” said Jon. “CSU was still Colorado A & M at that time, which I’m proud of, and the School of Forestry was great.”

Jon studied hard, enjoyed serving as president of the CSU Hiking Club and graduated with "High Distinction" in 1955. As a participant in ROTC, he served for two years in the U.S. Army immediately after graduation. Utilizing skills he learning in aerial photo interpretation from the forest management curriculum, he was assigned to a Pentagon Military Intelligence unit analyzing aerial photos from various sources including those from U-2 flights over Russia and other communist countries early in the Cold War.

Upon discharge in the summer of 1957, Jon moved to California to begin his career with the U.S. Forest Service.  He served in a variety of assignments including District Ranger for two units, and later as Planning and Environmental Staff Officer at Lake Tahoe where a special unit had been established to manage parts of three national forests surrounding the lake.
 “This was a particularly challenging position regarding a Regional Agency established by California and Nevada that was granted authority to regulate all activities around the lake including those on national forest land, which was somewhat unprecedented,” said Jon.  “During my career I was able to witness first-hand changes in forest and land management that became closer to the standard for environmental and ecological benefits now in place.”

Upon retirement from the U.S. Forest Service, Jon continued to provide forestry and environmental consulting services for several years and remains an active advocate for sound forest land management.  

David Hoefer always had an interest in natural resources and was also an Eagle Scout who loved adventure, hiking in the mountains, and even climbed Long’s Peak at age 12. In 1955, David convinced his parents to let him follow in his older brother’s footsteps and left Missouri to start his degree at CSU. Also an avid member of the CSU Hiking Club, his weekends were filled with hiking, camping, skiing and climbing – enjoying every opportunity to live up the Rocky Mountain dream.

“I was the only person on the campus at that time with a 10-speed bike and was one of the first people to ride a bicycle over Trail Ridge Road,” remembers David.

David graduated in 1959 with High Honors and began his career with U.S. Forest Service as a forester on the San Juan National Forest in Durango, Colo. He was promoted to district forest ranger in on the White River National Forest, Aspen, Colo. and later to district ranger and then environmental coordinator and forest planner for Routt National Forest, Steamboat Springs.

David eventually left Colorado, entered a long-term training program and earned his graduate degree at Michigan State University in 1977. He continued on with his USFS career as the Assistant Superintendent of the recently created Sawtooth National Recreational Area in Idaho.  After 11 years, he was promoted to regional environmental coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region based in Ogden, Utah before retiring in 1993.

Today, David is a private forestry consultant and still has a love for the mountains, adventure, and natural resource management.  
“Outdoor adventures are still a part of my life from general camping with our children, to climbing a number of the highest peaks in some of the western state, to rafting many rivers including two trips through the Grand Canyon,” said David. “I also took a trip to the Chilean Patagonia for a 10-day trek with my brother Jon and got to join him on three sailing trips to Tahiti, Grenada, and the Sea of Cortez.”

The youngest of the three brothers, Philip Hoefer enjoyed more vacations out West, enhancing his instinctual love for outdoor recreating that he shared with his brothers. With an added passion for drawing and mechanics, he explored other career options but eventually found his path would also be one in forestry.

Philip came to CSU in 1966 after spending 2 years in Fort Lewis College's pre-forestry program.“It was a wonderful education and led to a wonderful career,” said Philip.

He graduated in ’68 at a time when jobs were scarce, but was lucky enough to find an opening with the Colorado State Forest Service in timber resource inventory. However, on May 16, just two weeks after he started his full-time position, he received a draft notice from the U.S. Army.

His position afforded him a slight delay from being drafted, but he was eventually called on to serve for two years in Germany rather than Vietnam as a radio teletype operator. After his service, he was hired back to CSFS, but his previous position had been filled so he changed to a new assignment in vegetation management working on reservoir sites in Colorado.  While he didn’t know it at the time, this chain of events was the start of Philip becoming one of the pioneers of community forestry.

While working on vegetation management projects, Philip needed to know more about individual tree care and soils so he started taking arboriculture and soils classes.  In addition to being involved in the Society of American Foresters, he joined the International Society of Arboriculture and began collecting best practices on forestry techniques for city settings. Community forestry was a novel concept at the time, and he quickly rose as a leader in this immerging industry focus. Philip became skilled in promoting the value of trees in communities and how to develop effective plans for their care.

As more communities and agencies began realizing the value of importance of community forestry, Philip quickly became the go-to expert and helped develop city forestry plans and coordinate volunteer “tree boards” in local communities. He progressed with the CSFS from project leader to division forester and was instrumental in working with the Arbor Day Foundation on many Tree City USA projects.

Now retired from CSFS, Philip still lives in the town of his Alma matter, Fort Collins, Colo., and continues to do occasional forestry consulting. He is an advocate for the advancement of community forestry education, and has contributed a lasting legacy for communities throughout Colorado.    

Posted August 28, 2013 by Bryony Wardell