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Guest Opinion: Sams the right man for our National Parks
Jim Hammett

The National Park Service has a morale problem. The agency has been underfunded for decades and the previous administration politicized the mission of the NPS, turning employees into political pawns in the process.

Now, the NPS is dealing with record-breaking crowds in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. And, we are facing dramatic losses of wildlands, which affect biodiversity and contribute to the looming climate crisis that continues to impact parks across the country.

There is much work to be done in order to protect our parks. Some of this work involves restoring the NPS to the proud agency it has been for over a century to fulfill its mission to protect and preserve our resources for future generations.

Luckily, we have a strong nominee to serve as director of the NPS, and I believe that Charles Sams is the right person to lead.

I spent 40 years working for NPS, including 18 years as superintendent at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I have seen firsthand the importance of balancing the protection of our irreplaceable natural and cultural resources while ensuring that people connect to these treasured spaces through a positive visitor experience.

I strongly support President Biden’s ambitious America the Beautiful initiative to conserve more of America’s majestic lands, waters and wildlife and increase access to the outdoors for all Americans. The plan lays out a 10-year goal of conserving and safeguarding 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030

In October, Biden restored Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments — living up to a long-overdue campaign promise. But that should just be the start. The Antiquities Act empowers the president to designate more national monuments and he should use this authority to help get us to our 30 x 30 goals.

During his confirmation hearing, Sams spoke about his extensive experience working in natural resource and conservation management and his professional experience demonstrates an ability to enact change and execute a vision.

But he also spoke about the qualities of a good leader and the importance of valuing people and listening to staff. His experience and his values will not only help him not only fulfill the promise of conservation but also tackle the issue of morale within the NPS.

Protecting our national parks and public lands is critical to the future of our country and the well-being of the American people. A National Park Service with a strong leader who can stand by his employees is critical to ensuring that the success of the agency’s mission and their ability to assist in these conservation goals.

We can make Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative a reality. We can build back the NPS into the proud agency it once was.

I believe Sams is the leader who can help us accomplish this and I urge the Senate to move swiftly to confirm Sams as the director of the NPS and let him get to work.

Jim Hammett

Jim Hammett retired from the National Park Service in 2012 after a 40-year career. He resides in John Day with his wife and four bird dogs. You may reach him at jh*****@or*****.net