by Ed Shepard
Finally, it appears that we are turning the corner on this terrible virus that has impacted so many people and created havoc to the Country. Slowly, it seems that things are beginning to open and get back to some degree of normalcy. Government offices are beginning to open and employees are beginning to develop new routines that take into effect what was learned during the long closures. People want to celebrate, so let’s celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the BLM. This is an important milestone for the agency and one the PLF will be very involved with. Courtney has been busy working with the BLM on several events throughout the year to recognize this important time in public land history. I encourage you to track upcoming events on the BLM or the PLF webpages and social media and attend any that may be occurring close to you.
Speaking of Courtney; wow, did our search committee do a great job finding us an Executive Director! Courtney has jumped right into her job and has brought her experience and skills from years of working with non-profits to work leading the organizations. She has suggested many ways that we can improve our business practices and modernize our PLF’s administrative work. She has reached out to the Board members to get their perspectives and to the BLM to build a stronger partnership. She has also started raising funds and has a lot of ideas for doing that. Courtney, thanks for the great start; we appreciated you!
As we were preparing for the transition of administrations, we looked at the many position papers that the PLF has prepared throughout the years. While many of the issues addressed in the papers are still with us, we recognized that many were dated and needed to be refreshed to the needs of today. Other papers addressed issues that are not relevant today and are no longer needed, and others just needed affirmation that the issue is still relevant. Don Simpson took on the task of organizing a group to review the position papers and prioritize which ones needed to be addressed first. He then reached out and found members that are experts on the issue and asked them to work on updating the papers. A team was formed that included Mary Jo Rugwell, Ed Roberson, and Eric Janes to take on the arduous task of reviewing all the rewrites and putting them into a consistent format. Once the papers are approved, George Stone gets them on the website. This is important work that is used to assist in our advocacy efforts for the public lands, the BLM, and the employees. I appreciate all the hard work that Don and many others have put into this. There is more to do so don’t be surprised if Don reaches out to you and asks for your help.
The PLF recently received a very generous bequest from the Estate of the Johnson Family Trust. Kelly and Rebecca Johnson were great supporters of the PLF over the years and as part of their estate planning wanted to contribute to the work of the PLF. Kelly was one of the charter members of the PLF and was an early BLM employee starting as a range conservationist and realty specialist in Arizona in the mid-1950s. He died in 2000 and Rebecca died in 2020. We greatly appreciate the Johnsons thinking of the PLF. We will be putting together a small group to develop recommendations on how to best use the funds from this bequest in a way that recognizes the Johnsons and their commitment to the PLF. The Board will be deciding on this at the virtual annual meeting in September.
Back in April, I made a challenge to the Board members to match my donation of $250.00 to the George Lea Founders Scholarship Fund. This has been very successful and since the first of the year we have raised over $15,000 with 47 PLF members and friends contributing, many contributing more than $250. I encourage other members to join this effort and also contribute to the scholarship fund. Normally, we raise funds for the scholarship with the silent auction at the annual meeting. We were not able to do that last year and will not be able to this year due to the pandemic. A big thank you to all that contributed and for those who are considering contributing. We hope you will join us to help keep this important program running.
This year’s annual meeting and board meeting will be held virtually again this year. At the time we had to make decisions on hotels and other arrangements, the pandemic was still surging, and we made the difficult decision to wait another year for a live meeting. The meeting will be held the week of September 13th. More information on the meeting can be found in this edition of the Monitor, and I hope you plan on tuning in. We avoid making the meeting more than a few hours each day as we know that many of you are “Zoomed” out. I know I am.
The summer is already starting off very hot in much of the Country and the fire season has already become very active in geographic areas that were not expected to be active until later in the summer. Our thoughts for a safe season are with the fire fighters and support teams that are out there managing these incidents.
I wish you all a safe and fun summer. As the pandemic winds down and things begin to open, I hope you can get out and catch up with family and friends that you may not have seen for some time. Enjoy!