Forest Service Chief to Retire

October 11, 1996

Forest Service Chief to Retire

U.S. Forest Service Chief Jack Thomas announced last week he will retire next month and called for a clearer role for the agency in the long-running debate over how to manage the nation's public lands.

"I hope very much after the election there will be time for everyone to sit down and talk about giving the Forest Service a clear mission," Thomas said at a news conference.

Thomas, 62, will step down in mid-November to take a teaching job at the University of Montana. His successor has not yet been named.

Thomas was the first wildlife biologist to head the Forest Service. He was appointed by President Clinton in 1993 after making a name for himself in the debate over protecting the spotted owl, threatened with extinction because of heavy logging in Northwest forests.

Although criticized throughout his tenure by environmentalists and loggers alike, and by Republicans in Congress and Clinton Administration officials, Thomas was praised by people on both sides for his service to the agency. Under Thomas, logging in national forests dropped to one-quarter of 1980s levels.

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