Transcript: Inside the Foundation for America’s Public Lands

Jan 31, 2024

This is an automatically generated transcript. Please excuse misspellings, grammatical errors, and other mistakes. 

Aaron: Welcome to the Landscape, your show about America’s parks and public lands. I’m Aaron Weiss with the Center for Western Priorities in Denver, Colorado. Thawing out looking a little less wintry here this week.

Kate: And I’m Kate Groetzinger in Salt Lake City, where it is also sunny. We’ve got an exciting episode for you today. I spoke with the new and inaugural CEO of the foundation for America’s Public Lands. The foundation is the Congressionally Chartered nonprofit that will work with the Bureau of Land Management to leverage the power of private philanthropy to help the BLM better steward our public lands. We’ll hear all about that in a second, but first, let’s do the news.

Aaron: Well, if you listen to our last episode, you may remember me talking about Natural asset companies or nacs in our new segment. That’s a, a novel financial tool. It would essentially allow the value of nature to be traded on Wall Street, not just land values, but the whole economic value of ecosystems. Uh, how all of that works is a bit vague and also complicated, but all of it was enough to scare Anti-conservationists into fighting a proposal that would allow NACS to be listed and traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Uh, I wrote up an explainer on nacs. Uh, we’ll link to that in the show notes. The short version of all of this is the proposal is dead for the moment taken down by a right wing conspiracy theory, that was enough to scare the New York Stock Exchange into pulling the whole proposal. The ultimate irony here is that whether or not NACS ever ultimately worked or turned a profit for investors, they were at least a proposal, a step towards a free market climate solution. And the folks who took down this proposal up until a few minutes ago, they all claim to support free market climate solutions. Now, right now, you can’t see me. I am given a big old Jim Halpert stare right now in the direction of Congressman John Curtis, who is the founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus. Curtis has written over and over and over again about how the free market is the key to solving climate change. But the very second Wall Street shows up and says, Hey, look, here’s a free market climate solution. John Curtis introduced a bill to block natural asset companies from ever doing business in Utah. That is not how the free market works, folks. That is straight up hypocrisy.

Kate: Next up, the BLM recently proposed a plan to encourage solar development on public lands. The Western Solar Plan was first adopted during the Obama Administration in 2012, and it basically identified public lands in the West that are suitable for commercial scale, solar, and conducted preemptive environmental analysis to help streamline the permitting process for developing solar on those lands. This proposed update would add 5.4 million acres in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming to that plan. In total, the updated plan identifies 22 million acres that would be open for development. The BLM estimates that solar development is likely on about 700,000 acres of land in the planning area over the next 20 years, and that these projects could produce up to 100,000 megawatts of electricity enough to power tens of millions of homes. The proposal is currently up for public comment, and the BLM set it hopes to finalize the plan by December. We’ll have an episode on this topic for you guys in the next couple of weeks.

Our guest today is I Ling Thompson, CEO at the Foundation for America’s Public Lands. The Foundation is the official charitable partner of the Bureau of Land Management. Its job is to engage with local communities and the public on behalf of the agency, longtime landscape. Listeners may remember I Ling’s name from our episode on City Parks. She previously served as the Vice President of Strategy and Communications at the Trust for Public Land. I Ling, welcome back.

I Ling: Hi, Kate. Great to be back. Thanks for having me.

Kate: So let’s kick it off with, um, the most basic question of all. What is the foundation for America’s public lands?

I Ling: Well, the foundation for America’s Public Lands is the official charitable partner for the Bureau of Land Management. We were chartered by Congress in 2017, uh, but we didn’t get our operations kicked off until 2020. And since last year, we’ve been building out the foundation’s leadership, our infrastructure, our priorities, and getting our inaugural strategic plan in place to help really drive the work that we’ll we’ll do. Um, you know, and in short, like our mission is really to connect all people to America’s public lands and waters, and sustain these incredible places for now and future generations.

Kate: Awesome. So why does the BLM need a charitable organization? What is the sort of drive behind this?

I Ling: Well, let me give you a little bit of context around the Bureau of Land Management. So the BLM manages the largest amount of land of any federal agency. Um, the BLM manages 245 million acres of land and 2,700 miles of wild and scenic rivers. And despite the scope and scale of the lands and waters that they manage, they have pretty limited resources to carry out their mission. Um, agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, they’ve had official charitable foundations to support and bring private dollars to their work for many years. I think the Park Service just, uh, celebrated 60 years for the National Park Foundation and, uh, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is celebrating its 40th year. So we have a lot of catching up to do, uh, to get, uh, to get this partnership in place and to be able to bring private dollars to really support the M’S multi-use mission.

Kate: I’m glad you mentioned those other foundations. I was gonna bring them up. Um, obviously this is not the first, um, congressionally Chartered Foundation for a federal agency. How will this be different and how will it be the same as, say, the National Park Foundation, which might be the one that people are most familiar with?

I Ling: Sure, sure. So these Congressionally Chartered foundations are really important for our federal agencies. They help bring, uh, create an opportunity for private, the private sector and philanthropy to really augment and accelerate work that our agencies may have some limitations or not enough resources to accelerate. So, um, they have been in this business for a long time. I am very fortunate to be able to learn from my sister foundations and how I can really get the foundation established and built. What I’m most excited about Kate, is the ability to build this foundation. Um, for today, um, we certainly have a lot to, uh, to do and a lot of catching up to do, but as we look across the demands on our public lands and waters, we need to power homes and support communities. Um, people look to our public lands for jobs, um, and recreation is pretty important. And so as we’re looking at building a foundation, we’re thinking about the needs that we have today and how we would build an organization support that now into the future. And it’s a really incredible opportunity for, um, private philanthropy and the private sector to, to really step in and bring important resources and partnerships to help us do that.

Kate: Awesome. So I’m really curious about how you’re going to interface with the private sector, but, but first I wanna ask more about how you’re gonna interface with the BLM. What does that partnership look like? How do you guys, do you talk to Tracy Stone Manning on a daily basis? Like what’s the, what’s the vibe there?

I Ling: Yeah, you know, there’s, one of the wonderful things about the BLM is, you know, there a workforce of roughly 10,000 strong doing great work across the American West in a couple of locations east of the Mississippi. Um, there is no shortage of incredible places that they are working and issues that they’re addressing. So, um, you know, the foundation, we’ve, um, I’ve been in my role since, uh, early October, so I’m at the early stages now of really working with the, with the BLM to identify what their fundraising priorities are. Um, there’s incredible leadership across the BLM who are career leaders. They’re really working with me to help identify where they could use private philanthropy, where they have gaps, what are some of those challenging issues and opportunities to really sort of ensure that the lands and waters that they manage can meet the demands that we have for, um, a future of, uh, outdoor recreation and the growing demands that we’re experiencing.
Speaker 3 00:08:59 Um, places where restoration’s gonna be pretty important to ensure that the health and sustainability of these lands exist. And, um, and then down the road, how the foundation can support the transition to renewable energy. So we’re, um, I’m, I’m partnering at all levels. Uh, really with the career staff, it’s important to really understand what the work looks like and where the needs are. So it’s, it’s been a great partnership so far, and I’m, um, I’m really excited and in frankly, in awe of what, what the VLM staff do and how we can bring private partnership and, and financial resources to really augment and accelerate what they’re doing.

Kate: Awesome. So, um, I said earlier that we’d circle back on the philanthropy side of things. Tell me a a little bit about that. Who are the private partners that you’re looking to? I mean, I know that these, these partnerships will be more than just fundraising, but, but on the fundraising side, where, where’s that gonna come from?

I Ling: Well, I, you know, it’s, it’s interesting when I look across all the ways that the BLM implements their multi-use mission, um, a great place to start is saying, who really depends on these lands? Who really depends on the waters to, uh, for their business, for their communities, um, for their recreation, um, who needs the resources to support the, their livelihoods and the way of life in western communities? And so I think that’s, that’s like the best and, and first place that I’m focusing. Um, and I, and I think it’s pretty important for the foundation to understand, you know, what, um, what are the ways that, uh, these communities and sectors of of our business community are really relying on the, on, on the access and availability of these lands to support their work. So I, I think those are some, some starts. Um, the foundation is also really thinking about what are some of the demands on public lands and how we can ensure that, um, you know, the recreation demands have gone up in recent years, particularly since the pandemic.

I Ling: And so there are an, a lot of, um, you know, folks in the recreation sector, the, um, hunting and fishing sector, um, that really count on having healthy, vibrant lands for connectivity, for wildlife, um, for access for, uh, hiking, camping, biking, ATVing, RVing, um, as well as thinking about, you know, we’re in a, um, energy transition and really thinking about how we can produce the energy that our country needs. And so there’s a lot of companies that have long used, uh, our public lands. Um, and so I, I think all these are opportunities for, um, these sectors to really engage and support the foundation and, um, really bring resources and partnerships so we can, we can continue to ensure that these lands exist.

Kate: Um, I’m curious, are, will, will you be accepting donations from like the general public as well?

I Ling: Oh, absolutely. Um, you know, one thing that’s exciting, you know, I’m, I’m a, I’m a power user of BBL M Land, and, um, when I think about my ability to sort of pull up to a trailhead, you can walk out of your car and step on to many areas where the BBL m has recreation access or, um, the ability to go and enjoy these lands is open to anyone. It’s sort of the people’s lands. And so we absolutely welcome supports. Um, we’ve got our website standing up and, um, welcome, uh, you know, everyone from, you know, individuals to, uh, you know, private foundations and philanthropies to, to corporations to support this. I think it’s appropriate, you know, these are America’s lands and these are places that we all value for a variety of different reasons. Um, and so we, we absolutely welcome support from, from all parts, including individuals.

Kate: Awesome. Um, so you mentioned the recreation pressures on BLM lands. This is no secret, it’s something we’ve been seeing for the past two to three years just in it just record breaking visitation to BLM lands, and of course, um, that puts strain on these lands. Um, your first, the foundation’s first public facing report came out in November, and it did focus on this recreation pressure on the, on the BLM lands, and, and it sort of looked at ways to improve recreation access and, um, manage that pressure. Can you tell us about that report and give us the, the sort of broad level view of what was in that?

I Ling: Sure, sure. It’s, it’s probably helpful just to paint a little bit of context around this, this recreation, uh, outdoor recreation on public lands. So, um, on BLM lands alone, we have tracked about 80 million visitors who go to public, you know, visit public lands and waters managed by the BLM. Um, as I said a moment ago, like, we don’t necessarily charge a fee or track access at every location where someone is able to access that. So, um, while we’ve tracked people, that’s usually where you are putting in at a river put in or camping somewhere, and there’s a mechanism where there’s a transaction between a visitor and that place, but there’s many more, um, places where people are accessing public lands on a regular basis that aren’t tracked. And so it’s a fairly conservative number. Um, we’ve also found just recently the Bureau of Economic Analysis, uh, released, uh, an update to the economic output of outdoor recreation in our country. And it’s, uh, estimated at $1.1 trillion, and it accounts for about 2.2% of the US GDP. So what we’re finding is that the, you know, we’re seeing the trend lines continue to increase across the board. Um, there’s greater demand than ever to be able to get out and enjoy, um, quality recreation experiences, um, on public lands. And so this has been an area where the foundation’s been very focused and an area where the BLM really does need support. Um, it’s, uh, outdoor recreation has been a part of the M’S work. Um, there was a report that they put out that will continue to elevate the importance of outdoor recreation on BLM lands. Uh, you can find that report. It’s the 21st century blueprint for outdoor recreation. Um, and its aim is to start to put outdoor recreation on par as a, uh, for management alongside oil and gas and grazing within the BLM. And so that’s a, that’s a pretty important step and move. And so the foundation worked with the BLM to find ways to engage the public on weighing in on how we can really support and accelerate that vision for the BLM. Um, the foundation held three round tables, uh, one in dc, one in Vegas, and one virtually where we invited stakeholders come and were weigh in on that blueprint. Um, we had about 120 organizations and individuals provide input, and they offered a range of ideas and ways that they recommended, um, focusing our energy. And so, um, we’ve used that to really ground, uh, our work, uh, in the foundation to advance outdoor recreation and bring more attention and resources for that. So, um, we released a report, uh, at the end of last year that sort of culminated that feedback and provided some direction for where, um, the, the public recommends that the BLM focuses attention on through their blueprint.

Kate: Awesome. Yeah, that was a great report, and you guys even put together a handy one page summary of it, which I really appreciated. Um, and the one word that came up over and over again was partnerships. And I think, I mean, we’ve, we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but could you tell us a little bit more about what those partnerships might look like? Like what are, what organizations would give us maybe a, an example partnership, if you would?

I Ling: Well, one, one partnership and, and an example, um, are companies that operate, uh, outdoor recreation businesses. Um, one of our board members, uh, Jess, uh, Turner, Wal Turner, um, is the, uh, heads up the outdoor recreation roundtable. And so they have, they’re an organization that represents alto recreation businesses, um, across this, uh, across the outdoor recreation sector. And so they’ve been, uh, a good, um, a good advisor at this early stages to help us really tune into the needs of that sector, um, to create quality outdoor recreation experiences to really focus, like, where, where are there gaps? Where do we need to focus our attention? So, you know, we’re sort of looking for a spectrum, um, helping us really understand what some of the gaps, issues, and opportunities are and, um, leaning on some partners like, um, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and it’s, it’s members, um, to, to say if we have to get started, where what’s, what’s something, um, that feels high value for lots of folks. Um, we’ve also, you know, asked for input, um, on, uh, understanding where are some of the, um, near term actions that different partners would be interested in. And some of that might be thinking big picture about connectivity for, um, uh, migration corridors and the BLM and, um, how we can make sure that there’s access to land block lands or how we can kind of partner with communities that, uh, maybe lack signage and lack an understanding of the resources that they have in their community to make those more accessible and welcoming for people to understand what trails are available to their community or to their visitors. And so there’s sort of a range of, there was a range of ideas sort of put forward, um, that, uh, go from some smaller things like, uh, smaller things like trail signage and helping people understand the resources they have all the way to, um, uh, are there, are there, um, more resources and awareness around the holistic needs of the found of the BLM that the foundation can help drive awareness around that. Um, the partners really elevated is areas for us to focus in on.

Kate: So I assume that some of these on the ground changes might be things like signage, trails, um, parking lots, bathrooms, I mean, uh, the obvious things. And then, um, are there also, are you guys also talking about things like permitting and, um, gosh, more sort of, uh, esoteric changes, for lack of a better word, <laugh>?

I Ling: Yeah. You know, those types of issues arose as well. And so, you know, I I, those, those are on the table, um, for us to evaluate and see how we can really bring, um, bring resources and awareness to those issues. You know, I’ll, I’ll just share a story. Um, I, I live in Grand Junction and there’s this wonderful, um, place managed by the BLM called Rattlesnake arches. Um, people around here who know it are often like, oh, don’t tell people, but it’s, it’s a wonderful place. Um, it’s the second highest concentration of natural arches in the country, aside from Arches National Park. It’s managed by the BLM. Um, you search for it, you, you find a little bit about rattlesnake arches you drive. There’s, I’ve, uh, uh, experienced this myself. It’s little signage to get you there. Once you get there. There’s sort of, not, not a lot of interpretive information about the site, but it’s an outstanding place to go. You can walk right to the base of these arches. There’s zero crowds. Um, it can be a bit remote. Um, but that’s part of what’s special about BLM lands. And, and so sometimes I think about rattlesnake arches where I pull into the parking lot, it’s a single split rail fence that’s maybe 10 feet long with a sign that’s a little faded. And, um, you know, I’m pretty comfortable navigating my way in the back country, but that may not necessarily be the case for a lot of America who, you know, is looking for some really great quality experiences who are coming to towns like Grand Junction that want recreation visitors. And so how can we help support, uh, sort of better understanding and awareness of these resources? What’s there? And then sort of stepping back and saying, Hey, BLM doesn’t have, um, they can use more resources to support the, um, ability to manage these sites well, um, especially as visitation continues to improve. So there’s a lot to do around this places, but I’m often inspired by rattles neck arches when I think about what access and, um, welcoming means for places because it’s, it’s often, um, outstanding experiences, but just not a lot of people know about them as they do, um, like the National Park Service sites.

Kate: So you guys sort of built off the bl m’s own plan, um, solicited feedback, which is of course, something the BLM doesn’t really have the capacity to do. Um, so you step in there, you get all this feedback, you have all this great information, and you put out a report. What comes next when it comes to the foundation partnering with the BLM to put these things into action? Like, where does the rubber meet the road here?

I Ling: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question, Kate. Um, I think, you know, we’re at the stage now where we’re soliciting ideas and identifying where the energy is with folks outside of the foundation, outside of the BLM. Um, we’re now ready to say where can we really put, um, resources and partnerships in place to help us move the needle? Um, I brought up gateway communities a little earlier. There are communities around the west that would really love to have, um, build a recreation economy where they can thrive. They have access to a lot of public lands. Um, they would love to position themselves as a destination, um, for tourism and visitation, and they need some support to really bolster the resources that are there. Um, some BLM sites don’t have parking lots. Some, there’s very little signage or routes that you could take when you’re out in a place. Um, there’s also some areas where, uh, there’s outstanding examples of, um, petroglyphs that exist, but, um, some of those are experiencing, you know, vandalism and such. And so some, some areas might need more, um, uh, uh, you know, sort of law enforcement to help, um, ensure and preserve what’s there. And so there’s a, the one thing I’ve learned through this is that there’s sort of no one size fits all. Um, we are ready and, um, looking for partners who wanna come in and help us solve some of these challenges and do some good to support the communities that depend on these lands, the recreationalists who wanna come and access them, the communities that have, uh, really, um, that understand the restoration that needs to happen and the stewardship of these lands over time. And so we’re, um, we’re developing this sort of ready to go list of places where there can be investment and, um, open to lots of conversations with, um, different sectors and companies and individuals and foundations that are interested in helping us really bring this, bring this opportunity to life.

Kate: So you did mention this earlier, which is that the BLM has long been focused on oil and gas and extraction and recreation is kind of a newer focus for the agency. Do you see this as sort of a paradigm shift within the agency? Is this bigger than just, um, you know, shifting a few dollars here and there to recreation?

I Ling: I think it’s a natural progression. Um, you know, in some ways this is not, uh, recreation’s not new on BLM lands. It’s always, it’s always been there. I think the emphasis sort of when you get tactical sort of within its budget, it’s, um, you know, and I, and I think that’s the what the 21st Century Blueprint really represents is saying, okay, we’re experiencing this massive 40% surge in visitors from 2012. Um, we had more than 80 million visitors last year. And that visitation continues to grow. And so the agency is adapting how it’s, um, investing its resources to make sure that the places people are going, um, are continue to be sturdy and sound. Um, that there’s, uh, you know, sometimes you’ll go to a BLM place where there’s not a lot of, uh, resources to steward the land, and there could be, um, mounds of garbage and, and places where, uh, there’s a lot of dumping of garbage happening. And so the b LM is just sort of being dynamic and un understanding how it needs to redirect to meet the demand that they’re experiencing on their land. And so I, I think the, the blueprint is sort of this formal recognition that, hey, it’s, you know, it is a, there perhaps the moment is publishing the report, but it’s been something that’s been a long time coming. And, um, and so, you know, I think I, I, I commend the BLM and some of our partners who’ve stepped up to really help us think through how do we start to prioritize when everywhere’s a need, um, and for us to be able to bring some private philanthropy to help us start tackling some of these challenges in real places where recreation’s a really important issue and a, and a need.

Kate: So we’ve talked a lot about recreation <laugh>. Um, of course this is not the only thing the foundation will be working on since it is the BLM Foundation and the BLM is a broad umbrella of issues. You mentioned renewable energy earlier. Um, I see the Colorado River Basin restoration work is on your website as well as wild horses and burrows, which is another BLM issue. Um, what, what, tell tell me a little bit about how the foundation is, could potentially engage on those other issues in the future.

I Ling: Sure, sure. So, so you know, we have identified sort of four priority areas with the foundation. One is around awareness. Um, the other is around outdoor recreation, which we’ve talked about. The other is around, um, restoration. And the fourth is around wild horses and Burroughs. Um, so the awareness is actually a pretty important one for the foundation. We have heard resoundingly that there is sort of a lack of understanding of the multi-use needs and mission of the, of the BLM, because most of the BLM land is sort of, uh, in the western states. There’s, you know, less understanding in DC on what those needs are, um, what some of those challenges are that the BLM lands are facing, and how we can really ensure strong stewardship and management of those lands so they can continue to, you know, sustain the communities that are around them. Um, so that awareness is, uh, you know, sort of twofold in, in sort of elevating the, the needs and, um, and challenges that the BLM is addressing and the value that they bring to the communities. And it’s also about, hey, we’ve got some outstanding locations, um, throughout the BLM that could rival, uh, you know, any, any, um, national park, uh, and can, um, provide real, uh, great experiences for people who live there and people who visit. So there’s sort of this one area of awareness that’s pretty important. Um, the other, um, I mentioned was around restoration. And there is, uh, you know, particularly in the, in the west, um, it’s, it’s no secret that, um, states in the west are constantly looking and managing drought. This is an area the foundation’s really paying attention to and seeing how do we support the energy that’s in place and paying attention to restoration needs, um, dealing with the issues like drought, ensuring communities are resilient to drought addressing wildfires, these issues that are coming at communities in a very real way and have significant impacts. How can the foundation support these groups to identify solutions to partner across their community, to tap resources, um, uh, uh, and, and understand what’s available to them to really strengthen and make their lands resilient. So that’s, that’s an important area there. And the foundation is, uh, really, um, building and a strategy there to support communities that are doing that. Um, the, um, other areas around wild horses and burrows. And this has been a longstanding issue for the, um, for the BLM and some of the other agencies where wild horses exist. And so it’s an area that the foundation will begin to work with partners to understand what some of those needs are, where some of the solutions are, and how we can continue to support the efforts and bring forward, uh, solutions that can really help us address some of the challenges and concerns around, um, around this important issue.

Kate: Awesome. So, so maybe sort of a mediator role, um, if you will, <laugh>.

I Ling: Yeah. You know, I think, you know, my experiences, you know, in working in, uh, the nonprofit sector for the past 20 or so years is sometimes the hardest thing for great ideas. Uh, the hardest thing is to create space for partnership, collaboration, relationship building, and great ideas to get elevated. And so, um, you know, that’s, I, I think that’s a real way where the foundation can make sure that we’re supporting those efforts and creating, creating space and resources to help folks who wanna do good and wanna find solutions to come together and, and be able to bring those forward and, and support the, the implementation of those ideas.

Kate: So you brought up restoration as one of the foundation’s sort of guiding, um, principles. And I, I just feel like I’d be remiss not to ask about the current BLM public lands rule, which, um, would create sort of conservation leasing or restoration leasing. Um, I’ve heard it referred to by both terms. Um, does the, I I know that this rule is not finalized, it’s not, um, a real thing yet. It’s, it’s just a idea. But if it were to be finalized, how would you, how do you see the foundation interacting with the BLM in that capacity, if at all?

I Ling: The one area that’s really important to the health and sustainability of BLM lands is that these lands are healthy, they’re thriving, they’re capable of providing the multi-use, uh, mission that the BLM is trying to meet every day. And so, um, when you have challenges like drought and wildfires, um, perhaps, uh, you know, activities that are detrimental to the land and to the water, it’s a really, um, important, it’s, it’s a real challenge to, um, for the agency to be able to, you know, get their arms around those issues, bring people together to figure out how to, um, how do we start to reverse some of this and, and come up with some solutions that really put us on a different path. And so, you know, the one thing that’s, that’s interesting, you know, when I think about, you know, the, the future, the, the value of these lands, you know, I, I live outside of, um, an area where there’s, um, BLM lands that I could step on a BLM land and walk from, from the parking lot where I can access it from my neighborhood all the way down to a town that’s about an hour and 15 minutes away. And I’m on BLM land except for crossing a couple of roads. I’m on BLM land the entire way. Um, I can go from my, my garage to Moab mostly on BLM land. And there’s incredible diversity of these lands. And the need to make sure that these special places continue to exist is sort of the idea behind conservation. Um, in many countries, part of, you know, a big part of my career has been, um, working to advance, uh, collaborative solutions to address big challenges and, um, in other parts of the world, you know, the ranchers, ranchers work with, um, conservationists to say, we all need to make sure where we graze continues to exist. We need water for our communities. And that’s very much the same thing that we’re, um, we’re refining ourselves needing to continue to accelerate and lift where the BLM is doing that kind of work. So, um, when I think about the future and I think about what the opportunities are, I see more kind of partnerships like that. Um, uh, and again, having resources and time and someone to really support bringing together partners to understand what the tools are, understand how they can work together and really support them in moving their ideas forward is something the foundation can do.

Kate: Awesome. Well, let’s bring it back around to the foundation for a few final questions. Um, who, who is on the foundation? I know there’s a board. Um, what can you share about that board and what can you share about your staff?

I Ling: Sure, sure. Well, I’ll, I’ll tackle the first one. So I just got started, um, in October with the foundation. It’s been an incredibly exciting, um, time so far. Um, I’ve received a lot of, um, support and interest from a variety of, um, a variety of, of interests across the board who see how the foundation can bring real value. So that’s exciting. I’m looking to build my team. I’m, I am a team of one with some great sort of advisors across the board. Um, the board itself, my most important advisors, um, we have a board, um, uh, that is, uh, congressionally, um, was congressionally created, uh, that comprises of nine people, nine. We have nine seats. We currently have five of those seats filled and are, um, in the process of, um, identifying, uh, uh, the additional board members for the secretary’s consideration. Um, the board is appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. Um, so our board chair is Governor Steve Bullock. He was a former, uh, he’s a current, uh, native Montanan and former governor of Montana. Um, he’s been found, uh, fantastic and, uh, was very, um, intimately involved, um, in the early days of getting the foundation’s structure set up, uh, before I got here. We also have Mae Ace, she is the founder and, um, CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. And so, um, those who know Mae, she has this incredible record of working with faith and community driven leaders to help Latinos improve, um, their financial literacy, the, um, ability to be environmental stewards to, um, be, have, find better health, uh, and increase their equity and access to, um, resources. And, and she is wonderful. She is our secretary, um, Stacy Leads is our treasurer. Um, she is a leader in law and higher education and governance, um, economic development and conflict resolution. She’s the dean emeritus at the University of Arkansas Law School. Um, and she was, she’s the first indigenous woman to lead a law school. And we have Jess Jessica Turner. Um, she is the first president of the outdoor recreation round table. Um, she’s been in the outdoor recreation space for a long time. Um, she leads this coalition to, that represents associations in businesses, uh, with an interest in outdoor recreation. And she really brings the, that sector together to, um, support legislation that brings funding for public lands, waters, and positive policies that help rural gateway communities. Um, and our last, um, our last director, uh, we currently have is Kirk DPPs. Um, he comes from the retail food industry. He’s got 50 years of experience, um, very widely recognized in retail, and, um, has been an absolute, uh, uh, wonderful advocate for us to get the foundation up and running. So, um, uh, and then lastly, um, the director of the BLM is always an officio member. And so, um, hopefully some of your listeners know, uh, our director of the BLM is Tracy Stone Manning. Um, and so she’s been very engaged, um, in helping us at the foundation understand what the priorities are for the BLM and how, um, and paving the way for us to understand with, uh, the career staff, how we can bring private resources to support the M’S work.

Kate: So I’m sure everyone listening, um, especially to the recreation part of this podcast, could think of some area of BLM land that they would like to see improved <laugh>. Um, and I’m curious, are you soliciting public feedback? How can people sort of interact with the foundation other than donating money?

I Ling: No, that’s, that’s a great question. You know, I I, I, I think as, um, folks listening to this probably understand how special BLM lands are, they are America’s lands. Those of us in the West recreate on these sometimes every day. Um, there’s a lot of different uses for ’em. And so it’s, it’s, um, quite special for all of us at the foundation to find ways to engage with people who wanna support. So we do have an information, um, uh, a way to accept information and, um, engagement with the public, um, at info@americaslands.org is a great way to start. Um, there’s also, you know, I know, um, many folks, uh, are involved with other organizations that perhaps work with the BLM or care about what’s happening on BLMA because they’re a part of other groups that interact with the BLM. So that’s also a great way to just reach out to us, you know, we’re early stages. Um, things in the, in the areas of our program, priorities of awareness, access and stewardship are pretty important, um, to us. And so I am, I’m very welcoming of ideas in the ways that the foundation can, um, partner with them to bring greater resources to the BLM and, um, like I said, you know, add some, add some, uh, energy, uh, and support the energy that people have to really build that together.

Kate: Awesome. Well, we’ll be sure to drop the link you mentioned as well as any other resources into the show notes so folks can connect and learn more. Um, eing Thompson, CEO at the foundation for America’s Public Lands, thank you so much for being with us today.

I Ling: Thank you so much. I appreciate having, uh, a chance to chat with you.

Kate: Let’s go out with a little good news today. Last week, the US Forest Service withdrew a permit for a section of the UTA Basin Railway Project, a proposed 88 mile railroad that would transport crude oil from Utah to Colorado. If completed, the project would allow millions of gallons of crude oil to be transported through wild parts of the Rocky Mountains and along the Colorado River. This is the latest nail in the coffin for the project. Last summer, the US Court of Appeals overturned the surface transportation board’s approval of the project, sending it back to the drawing board. Now, without a forest service permit, proponents of the railway face an even greater challenge.

Aaron: Well, that is something to celebrate. The oil train is dead, at least for now. And that does it for us today. Folks, if you wanna reach us, you can email, podcast@westernpriorities.org. We always love getting your recommendations for guests and for topics, so please send those along. Also, go check us out on TikTok and Instagram. We are always looking for new ways to talk about this podcast and everything we do at CWP over on those platforms.

Kate: Thanks again to I Ling for her time today. And thank you for listening to the landscape.