NPS nominee Sams is right for the job
Dec 5, 2021
By SARAH BRANSOM
Our national parks are in jeopardy. These incredible spaces are threatened by the impacts of climate change, which are causing rising tides and hotter fires and endangering species. We are facing dramatic losses of wild lands and waterways, which impacts biodiversity and contributes to our looming climate crisis.
In addition, the people who are tasked with protecting our parks are experiencing a morale crisis. The National Park Service (NPS) has been underfunded for decades, a particular challenge right now in the face of record-breaking crowds and in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. To add insult to injury, the agency had been without a permanent leader for over four years.
There is much work to be done to truly protect our irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and restore the NPS to the proud agency it has been for over a century. Thankfully, we now have a Senate-confirmed Director of the NPS. And I believe that Mr. Chuck Sams is the right person to lead the National Park Service.
I spent 32 years working for the federal government, including three years with the Environmental Protection Agency and 22 with the National Park Service. I have served as a Natural Resource Specialist and worked on environmental quality issues. I have seen the impacts of climate change and pollution on our national parks, and I understand what it is like to work as a federal employee. We need to do something to better protect our air, our resources and our climate, in addition to our employees.
Pleased with administration
I have been pleased to see that President Biden’s administration is moving forward with revisions of the Trump-era National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rollbacks. And I strongly support President Biden’s ambitious America the Beautiful initiative to conserve more of America’s majestic and beautiful 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, thus making our nation more climate resilient and ensuring that conservation efforts are guided by sound science.
In October, President Biden drew much praise for restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, but that should just be the start. The Antiquities Act empowers the President to designate more national monuments and protected public landscapes and waterways – and he should use it to help fulfill the goals of his America the Beautiful plan.
I believe this plan is necessary to protect our national parks and public lands, ameliorate the impacts of climate change on our irreplaceable resources, and ensure that all Americans have access to the great outdoors.
Sams will be a strong leader
During his confirmation hearing, Sams spoke about his professional experience. He has an extensive background working in natural resource and conservation management, and his professional experience demonstrates an ability to enact change and execute a vision. But he also talked about what he learned in leadership, 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 safeguarding more public lands and waters, but also tackle the issue of morale within the NPS.
Protecting more public land is important for the future of our country and the wellbeing of the American people. Safeguarding our air, water, flora and fauna is vital to ensuring a healthy environment. And having a strong leader to guide the NPS into the future is critical to ensure that the agency can continue to effectively protect our parks for the enjoyment of future generations.
I thank the Senate for moving swiftly to confirm Sams as the 19th director of the National Park Service. Together, we can make President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative a reality, ensure our environment is protected, and build the National Park Service back into the proud agency it once was.
Sarah Bransom is a member of the executive council of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, an organization that represents over 2,000 current, former and retired employees and volunteers of the National Park Service, with over 40,000 collective years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. She currently lives in Colorado.