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Enzi seeks to name Teton Park visitor center after Thomas

Senate passes naming as part of Thomas bill to expand park

June 19, 2007

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is working to honor the memory, life work and passion of friend and former colleague U.S. Senator Craig Thomas by naming a national park visitor center after the senator and continuing Thomas’ work to expand Grand Teton National Park. 

           Enzi worked with his Senate colleagues to unanimously pass a bill Thomas sponsored, S. 277, the Grand Teton Land Expansion Act. The Senate unanimously passed the bill late on June 19.  The legislation would add nearly 50 acres to Grand Teton National Park. Enzi added an amendment to the legislation to rename the new Grand Teton visitors center after the former senator. 

            “If Craig loved anything like his family and horses it was national parks, especially Grand Teton and Yellowstone . It is appropriate that we formally recognize the contributions Craig made to the country and especially Wyoming through his dedication, passion and work on behalf of national parks. Families who pass through the Park gates for generations to come should know the name of Craig Thomas,” said Enzi. In addition to Craig, we have the Halpin family to thank for their generosity.  It will truly be a gift enjoyed by the people of Wyoming and the West, and also by all who come to visit our national parks every year.” 

            The amended bill will name the Grand Teton National Park Visitors Center the “Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.” It would also direct the Secretary of Interior to accept the donation of 49.62 acres to the eastern boundary of the Grand Teton National Park near Lost Creek. The added acres will help continue preservation efforts in the area. 

           On May 5, 2007, the House passed legislation identical to S. 277, but without the amendment to name the visitors center after Senator Thomas. Senator Enzi will now work with colleagues in the House to swiftly pass the amended bill. 

            Enzi spoke on the Senate floor today about the legislation and his former colleague.  





Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi on passage of S. 277 The Grand Teton National Park Extension Act of 2007  

Mr. President, It was just a few days ago that we heard the news that we had lost our dear friend and colleague in the Senate, Craig Thomas.  We lowered our flags and joined together as a family to say goodbye to someone who fought for what he believed in and worked till the end to make Wyoming and the West better places to live.

Craig is gone now, but the work he began goes on.  That is why I am pleased to offer an amendment to S. 277, the Grand Teton National Park Extension Act of 2007.  My amendment builds on the work begun by Craig and the efforts of Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Domenici who worked so hard to shepherd this bill through the legislative process.  In addition, I would also like to thank Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell for bringing this bill to the floor so we could make one of Craig’s legislative goals a reality. 

It really is no surprise that Craig worked so hard to develop, draft and introduce this legislation.  No one understood the needs of Wyoming and the West better than he did.  Craig was a cowboy from the top of his hat to the tips of his boots.  There was nothing he enjoyed more than taking  a horse out for a ride and spending time in the great outdoors.  

Craig’s love for the wide open spaces of our state led him to introduce the Grand Teton National Park Extension Act of 2007.  When it is signed into law it will allow the Secretary of the Interior to accept the donation of approximately 50 acres of private land that would be added to Grand Teton National Park .  In addition to Craig, we have the Halpin family to thank for their generosity.  It will truly be a gift enjoyed by the people of Wyoming and the West, and also by all who come to visit our national parks every year. 

When that land is added to the Grand Teton National Park , my amendment would add something else.  It will be called the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center and it will provide people with a place to stop by during their visit where they can learn about the history of the Park and the life of Craig Thomas. 

I can’t think of a better way to remember Craig’s life than to share it with all who will benefit from his many years of hard work and public service. 

Craig dedicated his life to protecting and preserving our state’s natural resources, especially our parks.  He was a tireless and true advocate for these important and precious facilities and he fought for their protection when he served as Chairman and later as Ranking Member of the National Parks Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

Craig had a proud history on the Committee and in the Senate as he constantly and consistently advocated for the best administration and management of our parks system.  He authored legislation that provided critical funding and mandated management reforms that were necessary to keep our parks pristine and ensure they would be available for future generations to enjoy.  He worked with all of his colleagues, regardless of their party affiliation to increase the funding for our parks so they could better deal with the maintenance backlog that exists.  Now that he’s gone, our parks have lost one of their best friends. 

Renaming the Visitors Center will ensure Craig’s legacy will continue and never be forgotten.  As noted in a letter written by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, “Senator Thomas championed this project since 1997.  His leadership in securing an $8 million appropriation inspired the Foundation to raise $13.6 million in private funds for the project.”  For his efforts on this and so many issues of importance to our national park system, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation supports the naming of the Center after Senator Thomas.  I ask that a copy of their letter of support be entered into the Record. 

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly constructed Grand Teton Visitors Center is August 11, 2007.  It will be a day that will long be remembered by all who come to honor the memory of one of the park’s greatest champions.  By passing this legislation, we are making that day possible and ensuring that those who attend that special ceremony will be the first to enjoy all that the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center will have to offer. 

This is an honor that I know would have pleased Craig and made him very proud.  I can almost see him, riding tall in the saddle of his favorite horse, taking it all in from under the brim of his favorite cowboy hat. 

Naming the Visitors Center for Craig Thomas will also mean a great deal to everyone who knew and loved him.  It will be a tribute to a special American that will last for a long time to come.  Many years from today when people come to the Park and stop by the Visitors Center that bears his name they will know that Craig Thomas was so many things in life -- a Marine, a Senator, a rancher, and a dedicated and devoted father and a husband.  But, most of all, they will know that Craig loved Wyoming and the West and fought with everything he had to maintain our precious resources.

I have always said that God saved some of his best handiwork for Wyoming.  We’re fortunate that he also gave us one of his best to champion the fight to protect and preserve it all.