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Regional Interests

Biden to nominate Umatilla tribal leader Chuck Sams to direct National Park Service

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Oregon tribal leader Charles “Chuck” Sams III to direct the National Park Service.

Sams is the former director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as well as a current member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He is the first Native American to be nominated for the National Park Service director post.

Kat Brigham, who chairs the board of trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, said she is excited and proud to see Sams’ nomination.

”I think it’s a great move for the White House and for him,” Brigham said. “He’s a man I think will really help represent tribal people throughout Indian country. ... He knows how to live off the land and he knows the responsibility of taking good care of the land so the land can take care of you for today and future generations.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who appointed Sams to the conservation council, said she is looking forward to his leadership.

“Chuck Sams is among Oregon’s finest, and I can’t think of a better person for the important role of National Park Service Director,” Brown said in a statement. “I have worked closely with Chuck for many years, and have witnessed firsthand his unparalleled devotion and service to his Tribe, our state, and our nation.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who oversees the Park Service and serves as the first Native American to hold her post, said Sams will bring valuable experience to the job.

“I look forward to working with him to welcome Americans from every corner of our country into our national park system,” Haaland said in a statement. “The outdoors are for everyone, and we have an obligation to protect them for generations to come.”

Sams has worked in state and tribal governments and the nonprofit natural resource and conservation management fields for more than 25 years. He held multiple leadership roles with the Umatilla Tribe, most recently as their executive director. He has also worked in leadership positions with the Indian Country Conservancy, Umatilla Tribal Community Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Community Energy Project, and Earth Conservation Corps.

The nomination will now be considered by the U.S. Senate. A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said Sams would not be available for an interview until after the Senate’s confirmation process.

The National Park Service manages 63 national parks across the country as well as national monuments and historical sites that collectively see more than 300 million visitors a year.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sams would be the agency’s first full-time director since the Obama administration. Former President Donald Trump nominated a candidate for the position who was never confirmed, and the agency has been managed by acting directors for the last four years.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting