The Boone and Crockett Club is grieving the recent passing of Boone and Crockett Club Honorary Life Member Jack Ward Thomas. The former Chief of U.S. Forest Service and Boone and Crocket Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Biology at University of Montana lost his battle with cancer on May 26. Along with many environmental conservation leaders, Thomas was a close friend of the Boone and Crockett Club. Honorary Life Member is the highest bestowed by the Club.
"The hunter-conservationist community lost a great leader and friend," said Club president, Morrie Stevens. "Jack's bold, no nonsense approach served wildlife, forests, conservation, and the students he cared for well throughout his career. He understood that the people living with wildlife and our national forests were the ultimate caretakers. Passion is what they need, and his passion is what we lost."
Throughout his life, Thomas exemplified the core values of the Boone and Crockett Club and served as an excellent example for conservation leaders, employees and students. His accomplishments and foundational contributions in the areas of conservation, applied research and ecosystem management continue to guide leaders today.
A native of Texas, Thomas began his career with 10 years as a biologist for the then Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 1966. Rising through the ranks, he was appointed as Chief of the Forest Service by President Bill Clinton in 1993. He served this position well, where he led the development of the Northwest Forest Plan. He was also instrumental in establishing Oregon's Starkey Project in 1987, which continues today as an example of how applied science for multiple-use habitats can and should be conducted.
Thomas retired from the Forest Service in 1996. He then served at the University of Montana as professor of wildlife conservation, a chair endowed by the Boone and Crockett Club. For nearly 10 years, Thomas served as a mentor to many students with his personal perspective from being in the field. As one of his students commented, "Every student I know to have interacted with Jack wanted to impress him; we all wanted to show that, like him, we were capable, thoughtful, and - above all - honorable." Thomas officially retired in 2006, but continued to write, speak, and consult for professionals, governments, and public lands supporters across the country and the world.
Thomas' list of awards and honors are too numerous to list. During his life, Thomas published hundreds of books, chapters, and articles and also served as a public speaker. As a preeminent elk biologist, Thomas co-authored Elk of North America - popularly referred to as "the Elk Bible." Thomas felt that perhaps his most impactful publication was the oft-reprinted "Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard," which he published in 1973.
Thomas' career took him from the wide Texas expanses to the mountains of West Virginia, from the Oregon forests to Washington D.C and on to Montana.
Jack Ward Thomas will be remembered not only for his dedication to science and conservation leadership, but also for his lasting legacy in reshaping forest management policy and for his strong positive influence on scores of students of the UM Boone and Crockett Program. He will be sorely missed by friends, family and conservation communities, including Boone and Crockett Club.
There will be a celebration of life held at the Club's national headquarters on August 27.