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Wyoming People

Senator Thomas, 1998 Ag Citizen of the Year

Senator Craig Thomas is a co-recipient of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup’s 1998 Ag Citizen of the Year Award. Taking time from a rare Saturday at home in Casper, Sen. Thomas said, “I’m very honored and humbled. I’ve been involved in agriculture all my life, so nothing could please me more.”

The senator is no stranger to Wyoming’s state fair in Douglas, where he will receive his award on August 21 at 7 p.m. Four-H was an important part of his early years in a ranch environment west of Cody. In fact he recalled a trip to the 4-H Congress in Chicago as his first time away from home: “It was one of the growing experiences of my life.”

A member of the U.S. Senate since 1995, Thomas is chairman of the East Asian and Pacific subcommittees of Foreign Relations, as well as of the Parks, Historic Preservation and Recreation subcommittee of Energy and Natural Resources. He also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Committee of Indian Affairs.

In Thomas’s nomination for the Ag Citizen Award, it stated, “Craig has repeatedly shown his loyalty and support for Wyoming agriculture. Since 1959 when he started as vice president of Wyoming Farm Bureau, though his current position as senior Senator in Washington, he has shown exceptional leadership in his efforts to maintain and protect a strong agricultural base in Wyoming.”

Sen. Thomas noted, “I see agriculture as the basic culture of Wyoming. Although it is not the largest economic producer, it is key to the changes occurring today. I’m persuaded that multiple use of resources is possible and that we need to be protective of our resources. Our ag base is necessary to achieving this. I’m sensing a growing consensus to keep ranchers and farmers on the land, combining the resources of private land with those of public land.”

He explained that ranchers, particularly open land ranchers, seem to be more responsive in wildlife and access issues. On the other hand, people who, in the past, have wanted to set aside these lands for single use, are beginning to say, “Wait a minute. Our best chance is to keep ranchers on these lands, to preserve open space from subdivision development.” Senator Thomas has come to be known as a chief spokesman for Wyoming and the rural West: “As a state, as a place, as a culture, Wyoming is more unique than ever. We cannot ignore our economic needs, but we must maintain our unique values. I see our continuing to have multiple use and assessable public lands. By striving for consensus, by creating a vision for the future, we can meet this challenge. To do this, you have to have agriculture.”

The Senator finds that representing Wyoming, with its vast public lands and small population, is both challenging and satisfying.

“In my role—as compared to that of congressmen and women from highly populated states—I have a distinct advantage. In Washington, I’m fortunate in being able to follow the excellent leadership of former Wyoming congress people. Due to their efforts, Wyoming is not exactly unheard of!

“Wyoming’s small population enables information to flow. I’m able to work closely with organizations, to meet with their people, to hear their viewpoints and get to know them. I can talk with the governor and key agency people every week. I also rely on my own excellent staff and the outstanding government staff in Wyoming. Wyoming’s people make my job a more pleasant task.”

This flow of information is integral to his vision for Wyoming’s future. Thomas said, “We have to ask where Wyoming will be in twenty-five years. We must have some notion of our goal in order to form interim decisions today. For instance, one of our current issues is taxation of agricultural land and fair market value. I think that trust lands must be managed over a tong term, not just in light of today’s possible returns.”

On a side note, Thomas commented, “We need to tale care for these lands. If we clean up after ourselves when we use this land. . . .it breaks my heart to see the trash and litter on our forest trails.”

Senator Thomas is no stranger to Wyoming’s forest land and trails. Mary Paxton, in his Cheyenne office, noted that the Senator’s idea of a vacation “is a pack trip on horseback in the high country, discussing issues.”

However, Senator Thomas does take time to indulge in his passion for team roping. He even practices his heeling in Washington. It seems that the Senator’s wife, Susan, came up with a perfect anniversary gift—a tail-end replica of a roping steer, which resides in the backyard of their D.C. townhome.

In the words of the nominator, “Senator Thomas has always ‘been there for us’ when we needed a strong voice in Washington. He stands by his conviction, even when they may be unpopular or politically incorrect. His philosophy matches up well with those of who make our living off the land, and we can be thankful to have him working for us in D.C.”