1995 Jack Ward Thomas Speech

In a strident speech before outdoor writers, Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas sought to bury the county movement. Calling the county effort "a flim-flam," Thomas urged the writers to take a stand and to get involved in the public lands debate.

Noting that "public lands have been the haven for the common man" for more than a century, Thomas pointed to the many benefits of national forests, ranging from those of economics to national security to recreation, natural resource products, wilderness, water, and wildlife. Chief Thomas further cited national polling data that 82% of Americans responded that national forests should primarily serve to "maintain a healthy environment." 90% of the respondents agreed that the federal government held responsibility for managing these lands, and 80% predicted that the conservation importance of these lands would only increase in the 21st century.

Rising to a defiant crescendo, Thomas declared, "Speaking for myself, I won't stand for [making public lands private] for me and I won't stand for it for my grandchildren and I won't stand for it for their children yet unborn. This heritage is too precious and so unique in the world to be traded away for potage. These lands are our lands -- all the lands that most of us will ever own. These lands are ours today and our children's in years to come. Such a birthright stands alone in all the earth. Hell no!"


"Thoughts on Ownership of America's Public Land" by Chief of the Forest Service, Jack Ward Thomas, before the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Chattanooga, TN, June 26, 1995.