by Jesse Juen.

It is truly a humbling experience to be the president of the Public Lands Foundation, following in the footsteps of the tremendous individuals who have led this organization since its beginning. Although I never envisioned being in this role, I am very much looking forward to it! I cherish our National Public Lands and have the utmost respect for the wonderful retirees who spent careers managing these lands, as well as those who are still hard at it. My personal thanks to Ed Shepard for his leadership, in particular over the last year as he encouraged me to be involved and helped me to learn the ropes.

I had a wonderful fall and winter season enjoying our public lands. I harvested my annual fire wood stash; made several hikes across BLM and USFS lands including a backpacking trip in the Sabinoso Wilderness in Northeast New Mexico, and will soon be hunting quail across our National Public Lands in the southern part of the state! l did not get my annual Christmas tree from
public land since we traveled out of town this year, but I have the perfect “BLM tree” picked out for next year! Growing up a Texan it still amazes me that all of us have these lands available for our use and enjoyment. There is nothing else like it anywhere else in the world that I know of.

I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season with family and friends and are looking forward to a new year that will hold many unknowns for us all. One common denominator we all share is the importance of our public lands, not only to us but to the public, private landowners, businesses, communities, counties, states and the nation as a whole. Knowing that our public land leaders, managers and staff on the ground are continuing to work toward improving the condition of our public lands; continuing to build strong relationships across their diverse constituencies; and continuing to treat employees and all members of the public with professionalism and respect, I believe our public lands have a tremendous future. The PLF, by virtue of its role as a vocal advocate of the National Public Lands and employees, is committed to helping build this future.

PLF focus for the upcoming year is “Keeping Public Lands in Public Hands” as was the theme for our Student Congress this past September. As stated so well in Ed Shepard’s last column: The history of public land management is one that we, as BLM employees, had a proud part in writing. The story of the National Public Lands is still being written and there will be many more chapters. It is up to the PLF and other like-minded organizations to see that those chapters retain “America’s Public Lands in public hands, professionally and sustainably managed for responsible
common use and enjoyment.”

Last but not least, thanks to the fund-raising committee spearheaded by Van Manning, we now have a fund-raising strategy in place for our George Lea Founder’s Scholarship and the next Student Congress slated for the fall of 2018. We will also continue the “The Past and The Future” partnership between the BLM and the PLF and develop a relationship with the Secretary of the Interior and future BLM Director on the knowledge, expertise, perspective and professionalism our organization brings to Public Land Management across the board.