by Ed Shepard
Well, 2020 is finally behind us! To those of you that have, or are suffering through Covid-19, I hope you are on the mend and recovering well. My heartfelt sympathies go to those who have lost family or friends to this terrible pandemic. We can only hope that the vaccines are as effective as they appear to be in trials and that we are given the opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as possible. I know that I am looking forward to the day when we can see our friends and family in person and not via the computer.
Looking back on the past year, I think the PLF did a pretty good job of fulfilling our mission. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we used our BLM-gained “can do” attitude and met most of our goals for the year. Thanks to the hard work of several members, our partners, and volunteers we were able to comment on rulemakings and legislation and advocate for the BLM on several programs, such as wild horses and burros and wildland fire issues. We also learned that we could have a successful annual meeting by using technology when we can’t meet in person. I think we are all hoping we can go back to face-to-face meetings in the near future, but now have the capability to meet via technology when we need to.
With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look forward to the future and to what 2021 will bring. We will have a new Administration that will bring about changes, as they all do. We have all been through the transition drill many times and know that it may be some time before we have the cadre of political leaders in place. We also know that we have to be ready to greet the new leaders and present PLF’s positions on issues when the timing is right. To that end, the PLF Directors have been doing a lot of work starting last spring and early summer. Van Manning led a Transition Planning Team that solicited input and developed a list of priorities to focus our transition work. Following the September Board meeting, a PLF Transition Team was formed to build on that work and to provide outreach to the DOI Transition Review Team. This team is chaired by Mat Millenbach and includes Henri Bisson, Ray Brady, Tom Allen, Don Simpson, Jim Caswell, George Stone, Eric Janes, and myself. We drafted a short paper that we could share with the Department regardless of the results the November election. After the election we finalized the paper. A copy of the paper can be found on the PLF website under the Latest News headline.
Once the Transition Review team members were announced we reached out and offered PLF’s paper to the team. They were pleased to receive our paper since, at that e time, they were not able to communicate with the BLM or Department. Our intent was not to inundate them with a lot of paper, but to give them some advice as they transition with the BLM leadership. We wanted to build a relationship with them with the hope that they will look to PLF members’ experience as the new Administration moves forward.
When the new BLM leadership is in place, our team will be reaching out again to offer any help we can and hopefully reestablish the relationship with the BLM and the Department that we had in the past. We wish the best to Secretary-designee Deb Haaland. We also look forward to the nomination and Senate confirmation of a BLM Director soon.
We are also looking forward to the hiring of an Executive Director for the PLF. In 2020 the Board approved a position description for an Executive Director and advertised to fill the position. Bob Moore chaired a committee to seek candidates for the job. The announcement was published in several of our partner’s newsletters and closed on December 30. Applications are now being reviewed and we hope to have the Executive Director in place soon to take on the job of fundraising and helping the PLF build capacity to better advocate for the public lands.
The PLF continues to recognize individuals and groups that have contributed in a significant way to the public lands, BLM, and PLF. We recognize current BLM employees and Managers with the annual Outstanding Professional Employees Award, we recognize contributors from outside BLM with Landscape Stewardship Awards, we recognize PLF members with the Volunteer of the Year Award, and BLM retirees Lifetime Service Awards. We also have members that have gone above and beyond and deserve special recognition. One such member is Glen Collins. The PLF has an outstanding archive located at the BLM’s National Training Center in Phoenix. The archives consist of the PLF’s records and many historic photos, documents, and records of the BLM-managed public lands. Glen took on the role of managing the archives for many years, as well as being a Board member and officer of the PLF for many years. He is also a charter member of the PLF. Glen retired from the PLF Board of Directors in 2020. In recognition of his many years of service to the public lands and the PLF, the Board unanimously voted to name the archives the “Glendon E. Collins National Archives”. We wish Glen the best and thank him for his second career of serving the PLF for 33 years.
I’ll close this out by thanking all of the officers, directors, volunteers, members, and partners that make the PLF successful. We could not do this without your many hours of service and your financial contributions. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021 and look forward to working with you in the New Year.