Sen. Thomas' Death Costs the National Parks an Advocate
It came as a shock when my wife told me U.S. Senator Craig Thomas had died.
I knew the Republican had been battling acute myeloid leukemia since last fall, but the last report I had was that he was feeling well. His death Monday is a great loss to national park advocacy, as the senator from Wyoming long had chafed at underfunding of the National Park Service and took exception to the $80 America the Beautiful Pass.
I had known the senator since the mid-1980s, when I arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to head The Associated Press' bureau there. At the time Mr. Thomas was a member of the state Legislature, and I got to know him there.
Later, when Mr. Thomas ran for the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the seat being vacated by Dick Cheney when he was named defense secretary under the first President Bush, I spent time with him on the campaign trail.
I can't say I wholly endorsed his politics, but in recent years I've admired his efforts to bolster the Park Service. He fought to see the Park Service reimbursed for the tens of millions of dollars spent on Homeland Defense matters, and took some exception to the Management Policy revisions that Paul Hoffman tried to push through a couple years ago. Sen. Thomas also had urged the Park Service to get on top of its maintenance backlog.
Most recently the senator was working to see some rivers and streams in Wyoming, including the headwaters of the Snake River that runs through Grand Teton National Park, attain wild and scenic status.
The senator will be missed.