Senate confirms Park Service director after years of acting heads

The Senate late Thursday confirmed Charles Sams III to lead the National Park Service, making him the first Senate-confirmed director since the Obama administration. 

Sams most recently served on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He is an enrolled member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the first Native American to lead the National Park Service.

He was confirmed by a voice vote, which signifies that a nominee is noncontroversial. 

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His confirmation comes after the agency was led for years by acting heads under the Trump administration. 

The NPS saw four acting directors during the Trump administration. Sams marks the first Senate confirmation of a director since 2009, when it confirmed Jonathan Jarvis. Jarvis remained in his position for the remainder of the Obama administration, departing in January 2017.

"Chuck Sams is the right nominee to lead the National Park Service as it addresses these challenges. I know Chuck. He is hardworking. He is committed," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy Five reasons for concern about Democrats' drug price control plan MORE (D-Ore.), who had asked the Senate to pass Sams’ nomination by unanimous consent, said Thursday night.

"Chuck is a role model in the stewardship of American land and waters, wildlife and history. And now thanks to the Senate's unanimous decision to confirm his nomination, Congress and park-goers will have someone steady and experienced to rely on in the years ahead,” Wyden added.

As NPS director, Sams will report to Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandNevada governor apologizes for state's role in indigenous schools The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE, herself the first Native Senate-confirmed cabinet secretary.

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Sams will assume the job at a time when national parks saw a surge of visitors over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, his confirmation also comes on the heels of a series of controversies for the NPS, including the Park Police’s role in the forcible clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square in summer 2020. He would also likely be responsible for overseeing the Civilian Climate Corps created by the Democratic reconciliation spending package, should it reach President BidenJoe BidenMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 MORE’s desk.