by Ed Shepard
As 2018 sinks into the history books and 2019 begins, it is a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and look ahead to the New Year. But first, I need to thank you for letting me serve as your President for the past year. A special thanks goes to Vice President for Operations Beau McClure for his continuing service to the PLF and his long hours of dedicated work. Many of you that are not involved in the PLF’s day-to-day operations have no idea just how much work this gentleman does on your behalf. Beau, you have our sincere appreciation.
I would also like to add my thanks to the officers; Vice President Don Simpson, Treasurer Dwight Hempel, and Secretary Geoff Middaugh; and the many board and committee members that contribute so much throughout the year. Geoff will be leaving his position as PLF Secretary but will continue to contribute as the Washington state representative. Thank you, Geoff, for serving as Secretary. Ray Brady has stepped forward to serve as our new Secretary and has been working with Geoff to assure a smooth transition. Thanks, also, to Pat Harvey who, along with the Secretary, puts the Monitortogether every quarter and to George Stone and Bob Conquergood for their work on the social media pages and Memorial Wall, respectively.
The PLF was busy in 2018. We held the fourth Biennial Student Congress in Baker City, Oregon with the theme focusing on the 50thAnniversaries of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails Act. This Student Congress was a little larger than previously, with 28 students attending and discussing the Acts and how they interrelate to BLM’s multiple use mission. The participants developed a set of recommendations that will be presented early in 2019 to the BLM Director and to the Department. The PLF partnered with the BLM, the Rivers Management Society, and the Partnership for the National Trails System on this Congress. The National Association of Forest Service Retirees has expressed interest in partnering with us in future Student Congress sessions, if we can raise the funds needed to put these on.
The September annual meeting in Billings was well attended and the theme was timely; access to public lands. The news has been full of articles related to the millions of acres of public land that lack legal access, the bulk of those acres, not surprisingly, being those managed by the BLM. As the demand to use these lands increases, so will the pressure on the BLM. This discussion led us to develop a position statement on the issue. This is an area we can help the BLM as they try to set priorities and address this issue.
The Board of Directors’ meeting was potentially a productive meeting. We spent a whole day working on a strategic plan for the PLF and had a useful, facilitated session working to advance the draft plan that Rich Whitley, John Fend, and George Stone started. I say “potentially productive” because we are not done with this plan. More on this later.
The PLF was active advocating for the BLM-managed public lands. We partnered with like-minded groups on issues such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization, fire management, Wild Horse and Burro management, and the proposed DOI reorganization. We can be more effective where we sign on with coalitions, but where we can’t we provide our own positions. This year we developed position statements on Wild Horse and Burro Management, public access to public lands, and are nearing completion of a statement on the potential move of the BLM headquarters west.
Last winter I was invited to attend the National Association of Forest Service Retirees’ (NAFSR) board meeting to discuss the PLF and how we operate. It was an opportunity to share what each organization is doing and how we are governed. Not surprisingly, we have a great deal in common and decided to look for even more areas where we could collaborate to advocate for public lands and the employees that manage them. Together, we represent retirees from the agencies that manage over 436 million acres of the public’s lands and can have a greater voice by working together. NAFSR is chaired by former BLM Director Jim Caswell. Jim attended and participated in this past summer’s Student Congress and expressed interest in possibly co-sponsoring the next congress.
The New Year will be a busy one. The DOI will be getting a new Secretary and, maybe, BLM will get a permanent Director. There will also be new leadership on the various Congressional committees we work with. Many important land management legislative packages that the PLF has engaged in were dropped at the end of the 115thCongress and will have to be reintroduced in the coming months. We will be arranging to meet with key staff early in the New Year to introduce the PLF, share our position statements, and offer our knowledge and experience as they work through the many issues affecting the public lands and the resource programs that the BLM manages.
Also, in 2019, we will need to continue to work on the Strategic Plan. Rich Whitley and his committee started work on this after being chartered to do so by the Board at the 2017 annual meeting. The Board worked on a draft plan during the 2018 meeting in Billings and asked for further comments, or a response of no comment, and volunteers to carry forward the work in the plan. We received very few responses. There is still time to review the plan, comment, and to volunteer to help. In the coming months the PLF will need to decide if we want to continue to develop this plan or continue to operate as we have. To be most effective, the PLF needs a road map of where we want to be and a plan, with milestones, on how we will get there. This will take the work of not only the Board and officers, but also contributions from the membership. With over 600 members, this organization can do a lot if we all step forward and share the workload. If you haven’t already done so, please review the plan and send Rich, Beau, or me your thoughts and how you would like to help out.
Regardless of where we end up on the strategic plan, the PLF needs funds to carry out the work that we do, such as the scholarships, Student Congress, and advocacy. Many members contribute to the organization through donations and/or spending time on committees, etc. This is greatly appreciated. We need to look beyond membership contributions as the primary source of revenue. Van Manning is chairing a fundraising committee to find other sources of revenue, such as grants. If you have any thoughts on ways or sources where we can raise funds to advance the mission, please contact Van.
As we move forward into the New Year, I wish health and success to you and your families. Thank you, again, for all you do for the PLF.
Statement of Ed Shepard, President
December 29, 2018
We hope by the time the Monitor goes to print that the shutdown is resolved, but this is PLF’s statement.
The Public Lands Foundation is disappointed that the Trump Administration and outgoing Congress did not fully fund the Bureau of Land Management for fiscal year 2019. We are especially concerned about the partial government shutdown’s potential personal financial impacts to the BLM employees who are furloughed and their families. We are also concerned about ongoing disruptions to normal land management operations, such as the closing of visitor services to the public, and to users of the BLM public lands. The PLF supports fully-funded appropriations for the BLM and urges the Administration and incoming Congress to enact appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year, restore normal operations, and compensate furloughed employees as quickly as possible.