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Hundreds of tourists gather on a boardwalk to watch Old Faithful Geyser erupt on July 14 at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo: Natalie Behring/Getty Images

President Biden will nominate Charles F. Sams III to be the next director of the National Park Service, where, if confirmed by the Senate, he'll face the growing toll of global warming on the U.S. iconic park system, the White House stated Wednesday.

Why it matters: Sams is of Native American heritage, and the Park Service has never been led by an enrolled tribal member before. In addition, the Park Service has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration, with four people serving in that role in an acting capacity during the Trump administration.

  • In addition to managing the nation's national park system, the director also oversees a sprawling law enforcement agency that has come under intense scrutiny for its participation in a crackdown on protesters in Washington, D.C., last year, as well as the 2019 killing of an unarmed young man named Bijan Ghaisar following a car accident and police pursuit in Virginia.

Details: Sams currently serves as a council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a position to which Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) appointed him.

  • According to the East Oregonian, Brown also recommended Sams as a Park Service candidate to Biden in a Dec. 17 letter.
  • The Council helps manage regional power generation and distribution from the Columbia River as well as natural resource use, such as fishing.
  • Sams, who is a member of the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Cocopah and Yankton Sioux tribal nations, has extensive experience working in natural resource roles in state and tribal governments. He lives on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
  • His Native American heritage may be a first for a Park Service director, and he'll be working for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American Cabinet member.

Context: The Park Service manages 423 areas that cover more than 85 million acres in every state, along with D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Biden has requested $3.5 billion for the Park Service in fiscal year 2022, which is a 12% increase from the previous year.

  • This money would go to hiring about 1,000 more rangers and other staff, improving the agency's ability to study and adapt to threats from climate change, and providing money for a Civilian Climate Corps, which would employ people to do climate adaptation projects at national parks.
  • Amid the coronavirus pandemic, national parks have seen an uptick in visitors, especially at some of the most iconic ones, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier National Park.
  • If confirmed by the Senate, Sams would make decisions about how to implement money meant to reduce the Park Service's maintenance backlog, which was authorized by the Great American Outdoors Act that President Trump signed into law in 2020.

What they're saying:

  • "As a descendent of the original guardians of our lands, Sams brings a unique and powerful perspective that can help our national parks continue to evolve in the places and stories they preserve and share," said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, in a statement.
  • “Chuck Sams is a visionary conservation leader with a deep demonstrated commitment to natural and cultural resources and the communities that depend on them,'" said Diane Regas, the CEO of the Trust for Public Land, in a statement.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

California fires force Sequoia National Park personnel to evacuate

A person at the base of the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park in 2006. Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Two uncontained California wildfires are projected to spread toward Sequoia National Park, forcing around 75 park personnel to evacuate, AP reports.

Why it matters: Park officials said the fires have the potential to threaten a part of the park known as Giant Forest, which is home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias, including one that is considered the largest tree on Earth by volume.

11 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

11 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."