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Interior Department Launches Foundation for America’s Public Lands

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Taking historic action that will benefit the nation’s public lands for generations to come, the Foundation for America’s Public Lands launched on Wednesday at a virtual event featuring remarks by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Department leaders. This congressionally chartered, non-profit foundation authorized by Congress in 2017 will help leverage public and private dollars to conserve, protect and restore lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management for the benefit of the American people.

“It is a privilege and honor to manage America’s public lands for the benefit of current and future generations. To do that right, we need a Bureau of Land Management ready for the future, not just with the right personnel, structure, and resources but also with a support system of outside partners collaborating on its success,” said Secretary Haaland.

“I’m proud to appoint visionary leaders who will take on the enormous task of building the foundation from the ground up to create this legacy and ensuring that its work is closely aligned with the agency’s mission and priorities.”

“We are thrilled to begin working with these remarkable leaders to get the Foundation for America’s Public Lands off to a great start. Like its sister foundations at the Park Service, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, I’m confident this organization will play a historic role for our public lands,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning.

Secretary Haaland named four founding Board members, distinguished leaders with extensive experience who will oversee and guide the Foundation in its initial efforts. The Foundation for America’s Public Lands will operate and raise funds independent of the BLM, though its work will complement that of the agency and help the BLM better accomplish its mission. The four founding Board members include:

  • Governor Steve Bullock – Steve Bullock is a native Montanan who has worked tirelessly to protect Montana’s way of life, including protecting its public lands. Bullock served two terms as Montana’s 24th governor from 2013 to 2021. During his two terms, Governor Bullock worked across the aisle to strengthen Montana’s economy, invest in public schools, freeze college tuition and expand career training so that Montana’s kids can build a better future. He increased funding for state parks, created a state government position focused on opening up access to public lands, and launched the state’s first Office of Outdoor Recreation. He has a track record of bringing people together to get things done and has served as chair of both the Western Governors Association and the National Governors Association. Prior to serving as Attorney General and Governor, he was a union-side labor lawyer.
  • Maite Arce – Founder of Hispanic Access Foundation, Maite Arce has 15 years of experience developing innovative outreach strategies that effectively mobilize under-represented populations. She has a proven track record of working with faith and community-based leaders, with whom she designs and executes data-driven and measurable outreach initiatives. Arce formerly served as Vice President of Operations for the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO), increasing Latino parental involvement in education and public policy participation among Latino faith and community leaders. Arce received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Logos Christian College in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Neil Kornze – Neil Kornze is the Chief Executive Officer of the Campion Advocacy Fund and Campion Foundation. In this role he oversees grantmaking, policy initiatives, and operations, working closely with the trustees and staff to protect America’s last wild places and combat homelessness in Washington state and across the country. Previously, Kornze served as Director of the Bureau of Land Management from 2014 to 2017. Under his leadership, the BLM protected iconic American landscapes like Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah and the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Kornze also worked as a Senior Advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and later founded his own strategy firm that helped clients protect land, water, and wildlife.
  • Stacy Leeds – Stacy Leeds is an experienced leader in law, higher education, governance, economic development, and conflict resolution. In 2021, she joined the faculty at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University as the Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership. Leeds is Dean Emeritus, University of Arkansas School of Law (2011-2018) and the first Indigenous woman to lead a law school. She is a former Justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court and former Chairperson of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. She is currently a district court judge for Muscogee (Creek) Nation and an appellate court judge for other Indigenous Nations. She is frequently tapped for conflict resolution and management roles, including arbitration, mediation, and negotiations. She previously served on the National Commission on American Indian Trust Administration and Reform for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In the coming months, Secretary Haaland will appoint an additional five founding Board members to staggered terms of four and six years to complete the Board. The BLM is working with the initial Board members to file papers of incorporation with the District of Columbia, where the Foundation will be officially located, and to apply to the Internal Revenue Service to secure 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.

On May 5, 2017, Congress authorized the creation of a BLM-affiliated Foundation in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017. As mandated by the legislation, the Foundation will: (1) encourage, accept, and administer private gifts of money, real and personal property; and in-kind services for the benefit of, or in connection with the activities and services of, the Bureau of Land Management; (2) carry out activities that advance the purposes for which public land is administered; (3) carry out and encourage educational, technical, scientific, and other assistance or activities that support the mission of the BLM; and (4) assist the BLM with challenges that could be better addressed with the support of a foundation, including reclamation and conservation activities, activities relating to wild free-roaming horses and burros, and the stewardship of cultural and archaeological treasures on public land.

The BLM will provide initial funding and support for the Foundation and is in the process of hiring a full-time liaison who will work closely with its Board and staff to ensure close coordination. Once operational, the Foundation will operate independently of the agency, though the BLM Director will serve as an ex officio Board Member.

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