by Ed Shepard

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Holiday season.  We actually had a white Christmas in western Oregon, sort of.  It started snowing about 10 pm Christmas day, but it was still Christmas!

The PLF election was finalized December 15 and the posted slate of directors and officers were elected.  We welcome Mary Jo Rugwell as our new President and Kim Harb as our new Treasurer.  We also welcome Peter Bierbach and Dwight Hempel to the Board as directors-at-large.  Thank you to all the officers and Board members for agreeing to serve the membership of the PLF, you’re what makes the organization work.

I think I can speak for most, if not all PLF members, when I say we are very pleased to see that BLM is moving forward to return most senior leadership and the BLM Headquarters to Washington, D.C.  The BLM will maintain a “western headquarters” location in Grand Junction that will focus on recreation, restoration, research, and opportunities to engage with stakeholders interested in meeting with BLM in Grand Junction.  The Assistant Director and support staff for the National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships will remain in the Grand Junction office.  More details on the organization can be found later in this edition of the Monitor.

We were pleased to help commemorate the 75th Anniversary of BLM.  The celebration had to be lower key than anyone would have liked due to Covid, however four virtual symposia were held from September through December that discussed topics from the past, present, and future of BLM.  In addition, Executive Director Courtney Lyons-Garcia did an outstanding job representing the PLF on a public lands podcast in August.  Recordings of all these sessions can be found on the PLF website and I encourage you to listen to these sessions if you have not already done so.

The PLF has long supported the creation of the Bureau of Land Management Foundation and we were pleased when it was enacted into law in 2017 but disappointed that it has taken so long to get it running.  The new Foundation will be known as the Foundation for America’s Public Lands and the Department is working to fill the positions on the Board.  The Secretary intended to roll out the Foundation during the symposium in September, however the spike in the Delta variant resulted in Covid restrictions being reimposed and it was decided to postpone the event until December in Washington, D.C.  The December rollout was also postponed due to continued Covid closures and the logistics of trying to successfully have the event with many of the public buildings still closed.  Now the Omicron variant is with us, and the rollout has been postponed indefinitely until things start opening again.  Hopefully, the pandemic won’t delay it too long.  We are looking forward to the rollout so that the Foundation can start the important work of raising funds to assist the BLM carry out its work.

One of the assignments we took on in 2021 was to update several of our position papers.  Due to the large number of papers and the workload we decided to do this in a few rounds, rather than all at once.  Vice President Don Simpson stepped forward to lead the effort and found several subject matter experts to update the papers.  Mary Jo Rugwell, Eric Janes, and Ed Roberson spent many hours reviewing the papers and putting them into final format, and George Stone saw to it that they were published on our website.  This was a huge undertaking, and we owe our thanks to all involved.  The updated papers are now available to help the PLF advocate for the public lands.

As I turn the leadership over to the capable hands of Mary Jo, I want to close my last column as President by thanking the PLF Board, officers, committees, Executive Director, and members for your support over the eight years I have had the honor to be your President.  I have truly enjoyed my time as President and hope that I have added some value to the organization, building on the foundation laid by George Lea, Henri Bisson, and Jesse Juen.  Beau McClure, the person that makes the PLF run, is an asset that the PLF simply cannot afford to lose.  Beau was my go-to guy when I needed advice; he knows where every gear and cog in the organization goes and how to put them together to make the PLF run smoothly.  If he didn’t have an answer he seemed to know where to find one.  So many of you have provided me with your counsel over the years and I really appreciate your being there for me, especially as we had to all pull together in the past few years to address the BLM reorganization.  Without a doubt the people we all need to be grateful to are George Lea and the other founders that, thirty-five years ago, had the foresight to start the PLF and establish an organization that has benefitted the public lands and the employees that manage them in so many ways.

I plan to stay active in the PLF and will remain on the Board as a past president.  I will also be serving as the liaison with the National Association of Forest Service Employees.

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