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Forks in the Trail

When Jack Ward Thomas was named chief of the U.S. Forest Service in 1993, only twelve men had ever known the staggering responsibility, political pressureand extraordinary opportunities to influence the future of America's natural resourcesthat came with the job. Theodore Roosevelt had created the agency in 1905, appointing Gifford Pinchot as its first chief. Now Thomas would shoulder the load once borne by two icons of the conservation movement. Forks in the Trail is a collection of stories about the experiences that shaped the values, knowledge, skills, and decisions of a field biologist who came from a hardscrabble Texas farm and eventually rose to the pinnacles of natural resource leadership in Washington, D.C. Thomas arrived at his new post with a unique set of perspectives and experiences. His formal education and decades of forest, range, and wildlife research had prepared him academically. His rural upbringing and passions for nature, hunting, and sustainable use of natural resources had prepared him pragmatically. But it was basic moxie that ultimately equipped Thomas to confront the most controversial conservation topics of the day, from protecting old-growth timber and spotted owl habitat to the deaths of fourteen wildland firefighters in 1994. Thomas's life is the story of how conservation and natural resources management happened in America during the second half of the twentieth century. But more than just old war stories, timelines, and reiterations of his curriculum vitae, Forks in the Trail offers intensely personal reflections of life lessonsof the foibles, fears, mistakes, adventures, misadventures, successes, failures, and comedies of errors and ego"learned along the way to a full, remarkable career. "During my life," Thomas writes, "I had many adventures, good and bad; achieved beyond my wildest dreams; and, to my lasting chagrin, too often fell short. In the process I learned much; lost often but won some too; suffered the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'; helped foment some troublesome quandaries; and helped in the resolution of others." With tales well told, Forks in the Trail reveals a distinctive life and an illustrious career.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Char Miller ix Preface xii 1. A Foundation is Set: Handley, Texas, 1939-1956 3 2. New" Can Be a Very Scary Thing: Texas Game Department, 1957-1966 30 3. A Long Way from Texas: West Virginia and Maine, 1966-1973 121 4. A New Paradigm, Ecosystem Management: La Grande, Oregon, 1973-1993 152 5. A Chance to Make a Difference: Washington, D.C., 1993-1996 212 6. A Time to Teach and to Reflect: Montana, 1997-2005 287 Epilogue 321 Publisher's Notes 323 Author's Acknowledgments 325

About the Author

A child of the Dust Bowl era who became a sportsman, biologist, and leader in conservation, Jack Ward Thomas has devoted his life and career to the outdoors. His professional service included the dustiest trenches as well as the highest offices of natural resource managementculminating with his 1993 appointment as the thirteenth chief of the U.S. Forest Service. His personal adventures spanned hunting rabbits for Mom's skillet to leading pack strings up into the high lonesome" of western wildernesses. A Texas native, Thomas earned progressive degrees from Texas A&M, West Virginia, and Massachusetts universities. He spent twenty years in forest, range, and wildlife research in Oregon, becoming increasingly involved in natural resource sciences and politics in the years leading to his tenure as Forest Service chief. Thomas later became Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana, a position endowed by Boone and Crockett Club, before retiring in 2007.

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