This month, we are pleased to feature Shawn Thomas, Forestry and Trust Lands Division Administrator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. 

What was your first position in the field of forestry?

I started my forestry career working as a summer intern at Plum Creek Timber Co. I worked out of Columbia Falls, MT, doing forest inventory and GIS work in 1994.

How long have you been in your role?

I took on the role as Montana’s State Forester in January of 2023, so just about a year now. Prior to merging the Forestry and Trust Land Divisions, I was the Trust Lands Division Administrator for 12 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a Council of Western State Foresters (CWSF) member?

I have really enjoyed the network of State Foresters, other state forestry staff, and the expertise from Council staff. All of these resources are a great opportunity to learn about the many issues facing us across the Western US. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know that others share our same challenges and that we as individual states are not alone.

What do you see to be the emerging issues in your state?

Emerging may be the wrong word for it, as the problem has been developing for decades now. But there is a new awareness nationally about the forest health and wildfire crisis that we face throughout the West. New resources coming from Congress, as well as from the State of Montana, are being dedicated to getting a better handle on this. Montana DNRC is fully engaged in trying to ensure we maximize the opportunity before us.

What is your favorite tree?

That’s a tough call. I’d have to say if I had to pick one, it would be Western Larch.