Charles Sams III is to be nominated to serve as the director of the National Park Service. Photo: NPCC

Charles “Chuck” F. Sams III is President Joe Biden’s choice to serve as director of the National Park Service.

The White House announced the nomination Wednesday, which now goes to the Senate for confirmation.

Sams has worked in state and tribal governments and the nonprofit natural resource and conservation management fields for more than 25 years. A Navy veteran, he holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Concordia University-Portland and a master’s of legal studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma. Sams is an enrolled member, Cayuse and Walla Walla, of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, where he lives with his wife and their four children.

“The diverse experience that Chuck brings to the National Park Service will be an incredible asset as we work to conserve and protect our national parks to make them more accessible for everyone. I look forward to working with him to welcome Americans from every corner of our country into our national park system. The outdoors are for everyone, and we have an obligation to protect them for generations to come,” said Secretary Deb Haaland in a release.

Sams currently serves as a member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, having been appointed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

He has held a variety of roles with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, most recently as their executive director. He has also had roles as the president/chief executive officer of the Indian Country Conservancy, executive director for the Umatilla Tribal Community Foundation, national director of the Tribal & Native Lands Program for the Trust for Public Land, executive director for the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, executive director for the Community Energy Project, and president/chief executive officer for the Earth Conservation Corps.

Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, said Wednesday that this announcement is long overdue.

“For the first time in its history, the NPS has been without a Senate-confirmed director for over four years. We have pushed hard for a nominee, and we are gratified that President Biden’s administration has finally made an announcement. We urge the Senate to schedule hearings on the nomination as soon as possible,” Francis said.

“Sams has an extensive record working in natural resource and conservation management. We look forward to learning more about his priorities for the National Park System and working with him to ensure that the National Park Service has the support and funding to fulfill its mission to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement that Sams would play an essential role in protecting more than 400 of America’s most treasured places and overseeing the management of 20,000 National Park Service employees.

“This is no small task, but we believe that Sams is prepared to step up and tackle the many challenges and opportunities facing our parks,” Pierno said. “Throughout his career, Sams has formed powerful relationships across Tribal Nations, all levels of government and the conservation community, navigating difficult issues in an inclusive and caring way. As a descendent of the original guardians of our lands, Sams brings a unique and powerful perspective that can help our national parks continue to evolve in the places and stories they preserve and share. With his commitment towards diverse partnerships and an eye towards inspiring the next generation of park leaders, we are confident that Sams will help ensure that everyone sees themselves reflected in these important places.”

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