Energy & Environment

Senate confirms Park Service director after years of acting heads

Nominee to be Director of the National Park Service Charles Sams III is sworn in during his Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee nomination hearing on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.
Greg Nash

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. 

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 Wyden (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 Haaland, herself the first Native Senate-confirmed cabinet secretary.

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 Biden’s desk.


Tags Charles Sams III Deb Haaland Joe Biden National Park Service Ron Wyden

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