Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III was ceremonially sworn in earlier this month as director of the National Park Service by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
Sams is the first Tribal citizen to lead the agency, which has been without a Senate confirmed leader for nearly five years. He was sworn in Dec. 16, National Park Service officials said in a release.
“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,” said Haaland in a statement. “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.”
Sams has worked in state and Tribal governments and the nonprofit natural resource and conservation management fields for more than 25 years. He most recently served as council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, appointed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
“I am honored to serve as Director of the National Park Service and thank President Biden and Secretary Haaland for entrusting in me the care of one of America’s greatest gifts: our National Park System,” Sams said. “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.”
Sams will help implement the Great American Outdoors Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in his role as National Park Service director. In addition to historic funding for climate resiliency initiatives and legacy pollution cleanup, the infrastructure law provides for a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which will help invest in repairing and upgrading NPS roads, bridges, trails and transit systems.
The law invests in projects that will help fund bridge replacements and resiliency, repair ferry boats and terminal facilities, and maintain wildlife crossings that keep people and surrounding wildlife safe, according to the agency.
Sams has held a variety of roles with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, most recently as executive director. He has also served as 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.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Sams holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Concordia University-Portland and a Master 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.