National Park Service Gets A New Director
Chuck Sams Becomes the First Tribal Citizen to Lead the NPS
After nearly five years of not having a Senate-approved director, the National Park Service (NPS) finally has a new leader. Last week, Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III was ceremonially sworn in as head of the NPS by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. He became the first Native American to hold that position.
A native of Oregon, Sams brings 25 years of experience in tribal administration and natural resource management to the role. He is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, serving as the deputy executive director. His resume includes tenures at several nonprofit organizations focusing on conversation efforts and the rights of indigenous people. In 2000, Sams was awarded the President’s Service Medal for his efforts to help protect the environment.
“I am honored to serve as Director of the National Park Service,” Sams said in a press release announcing his appointments. “I am also incredibly proud to work with the dedicated employees of the National Park Service. I have no doubt that together, we’ll be able to expand access to the outdoors, protect America’s public lands, and upgrade our nation’s infrastructure system through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
As the new NPS director, Sams inherits significant challenges. Many national parks are currently struggling under the strain of record numbers of visitors, and climate change is impacting public lands across the country. Additionally, the park service has a significant maintenance backlog requiring billions of dollars to address. The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates funds to meet those needs, including repairing roads, maintaining trails, and upgrading campgrounds.
“Everyone should have access to the outdoors no matter where they live, how much money they have, or what their background is. Chuck Sams understands the importance of connecting people to nature, and I am thrilled to work with him as the Interior Department works to make our national park system accessible to all Americans,” Secretary Haaland said. “Under his leadership, the National Park Service will continue to protect our public lands for generations to come and make critical investments in the vast infrastructure that sustains our public lands and national parks.”
Congratulations to Director Sams on his appointment to the park service.