Grand Canyon National Park is one of the crown jewels in the National Park System.

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the crown jewels in the National Park System. W.Tyson Joye / NPS

Biden Announces Pick to Lead the National Park Service

If confirmed by the Senate, Charles Sams III would become the first permanent leader in the position in over four years.

On Wednesday afternoon, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Charles Sams III to become director of the National Park Service, a position that has lacked a permanent leader for four years. 

Sams is currently a council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which promotes reliable energy systems and fish and wildlife programs in the Columbia River Basin.

“Sams has worked in state and tribal governments and the non-profit natural resource and conservation management fields for over 25 years,” said an announcement from the White House.” 

He previously held a variety of roles with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, such as deputy executive director, communications director, environmental health and safety officer in the Tribal Planning Office. He also served as president and CEO of 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 and CEO for the Earth Conservation Corps. He also worked as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and Whitman College.  

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee tweeted that Sams was a good choice after President Trump and the Republican party “devalued the agency and didn't appoint a director in four years.” They also noted that NPS, a division of the Interior Department, has been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and wildfires, among other things, so “Sams' perspective on land use issues [and] public engagement is valuable.”

The last permanent director of the Park Service was Jonathan Jarvis, who served during the Obama administration, from October 2, 2009, to January 3, 2017. Then there was considerable turnover among acting directors under the Trump administration. 

As Park Service director, Sams would oversee over 400 parks and about 20,000 employees.