September 24, 2020

Remembering Former RMEF Chairman Jack Ward Thomas

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Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is mourning the passing of Jack Ward Thomas, a long-time friend who was instrumental in assisting RMEF in its early days. Thomas passed away after a battle with cancer.

“Jack Ward Thomas will be one that the history of forestry and elk will show him to be a legend. He left a high watermark for all of us to reach,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

Thomas was a RMEF life member who served on the RMEF Board of Directors from 1997 to 2003, including a two-year stint as chairman in 2002-2003. He previously provided much-needed guidance and direction to RMEF’s founders in the mid-1980s.

Just seven months ago, Thomas received the Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award, RMEF’s highest honor, for his contributions of lasting significance to the benefit of elk, other wildlife and their habitat across North America.

In 1993, President Clinton appointed Thomas the thirteenth chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Prior to that he worked a decade for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and spent 27 years conducting research in Virginia, Massachusetts and at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in Oregon where he conducted critical elk studies.

Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in wildlife ecology at West Virginia University and a doctorate in forestry from the University of Massachusetts. He retired in 1996 and accepted a position at the University of Montana as professor of wildlife conservation that he held until his official retirement in 2006.

Thomas has more than 600 publications to his credit covering elk, deer and turkey biology as well as wildlife habitat, songbird ecology, northern spotted owl management, forestry, land use planning and hunting.

“We don’t just manage land,” he wrote. “We’re supposed to be leaders. Conservation leaders. Leaders in protecting and improving the land.”

“Jack was the consummate example of conservation in word and deed. He will be sorely missed by all of us. We send our profound condolences to the Thomas family,” added Allen.

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