I Ling Thompson

Building a Strong Foundation in the New Year

As we look forward to the year ahead, the Foundation for America’s Public Lands is ready to set out on a new trail. Over the last year, we broke new ground and reached key milestones that have set the course for a transformational future across our public lands and waters.

It’s no secret that the Foundation has been a long time coming. For decades, agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service have had official charitable foundations to advance public-private partnerships in support of their mission. Yet, despite managing 2,700 miles of wild and scenic rivers and the most land of any agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not had an official charitable partner – until now.

In October, I was thrilled to join the Foundation as its inaugural CEO. I call Grand Junction, Colorado home, a place that embodies the important multiple use mandate that the BLM navigates every day. Their unique mission helps power homes and businesses through energy development, manages millions of acres of rangeland for ranching, oversees the stewardship of sacred Tribal sites, and provides worldclass outdoor recreation sites for hikers, bikers, motorists, and more.

While demands for quality recreational experiences and a renewable energy transition are growing, our public lands and waters are increasingly threatened from drought and fire, as well as a fundamental lack of funding and partnerships, which has held back progress to properly steward the lands we have for future generations. That’s where the Foundation comes in. Together with communities and partners, the Foundation aims to charter a new path forward to ensure the health and sustainability of these special places for today and future generations. I am both humbled and optimistic at the energy already growing to support the Foundation’s vision at such an important time.

We are already moving on our strategic framework to build the inaugural programs that advance our strategic priorities of awareness, access, and stewardship. The Foundation will also build broad support for America’s public lands and waters and demonstrate that through collaboration, we can identify innovative solutions to our challenges that bring everyone together.

Our strategic framework draws on insights from the past, the challenges we face today, and opportunities that will carry us to our future. The path to get there reflects careful analysis and meaningful outreach to more than 120 local and state government associations, industry groups, companies, policy experts, and nonprofit partners that helped us define the unique role of the Foundation and the principles for how we operate.

These principles are our North Star:

  • Driven by Our Values: The Foundation’s key values that guide our work include inspiration, connection, inclusivity, lasting impact, and trust.
  • Recognition of the Importance of Public Lands and Waters: Our work is focused on uplifting the economic value, shared heritage, multiple uses, and conservation values that foster greater stewardship of our public lands and waters.
  • A Focus on Inaugural Programs: The Foundation’s initial program initiatives are focused on launching an awareness campaign, collaborating with BLM on its outdoor recreation blueprint, identifying restoration opportunities on BLM lands, and engaging with the BLM’s Wild Horses and Burros Management initiative.
  • Ensuring Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility are at the forefront of our work: Diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility are interconnected principles that guide our work. They shape our approaches in all facets of our organization, from recruitment and retention of staff and volunteers to the development of our programs and the nurturing of partnerships.
  • Acknowledging Public Lands and Waters as Ancestral Tribal Homelands. These lands hold deep historical, cultural, and spiritual significance for Indigenous Peoples, a history that has been marred by dispossession and displacement. We recognize the enduring connection that Indigenous communities have with these lands and waters and the intricate knowledge they possess and will seek partnerships to reconnect and stewards BLM lands.

Additionally, in mid-November 2023, the Foundation released a report to help the BLM improve recreational experiences across the wide diversity of public lands and waters they manage. The report, titled “Opportunities for Action: A Synthesis from Roundtables in Support of the Bureau of Land Management’s Blueprint for 21st Century Outdoor Recreation,” summarizes insights from over 120 expert organizations and outlines responsive actions for the BLM to improve partnerships, build a more inclusive culture, and help address challenges to ensure present and future generations can access and enjoy public lands. It makes clear the need for strong partnerships and more resources in order for the BLM to implement its vision.

I could not be more optimistic about the year ahead and the opportunity to identify opportunities to collaborate on our shared priorities. Thank you again for your dedication to our public lands and waters. It is because of your hard work that the Foundation’s mission is possible. I wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy New Year.

With gratitude,

I Ling Thompson

Chief Executive Officer

The Foundation for America’s Public Lands

Share This Post