Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Seasoned backpacker and adventurer Yang Lu earned the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest with this image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds deep connection to the land through his lens.
“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas." -- Yang Lu
Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
Mary Josie Blanchard is Deputy Director of the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC) within the Office of the Secretary in the Department of the Interior. She is a member of the Senior Executive Service. In this position, Ms. Blanchard oversees and coordinates DOI's compliance with environmental statutes, handling environmental matters that cut across the various bureaus of the Department and provides environmental advice to upper management. She works extensively with the eight regions of OEPC. Among her accomplishments, she led an interdisciplinary team which substantially improved the Department's fiscal reporting to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for hydropower licensing. Ms. Blanchard was instrumental in developing and implementing the Environmental Safeguards Management Improvement initiative in which Interior serves as the primary Federal agency for response to emergencies dealing with natural and cultural resources and historic properties during incidents under the National Response Framework. This initiative has provided successful planning for, response to and recovery from disasters-in part by incorporating lessons learned from recent hurricanes into Standard Operating Procedures.
Immediately prior to her assuming this position, she was Assistant Director, Program Support at the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in the Department of the Interior. She was responsible for developing OSM's regulations, policies, and technical guidance for active and abandoned mine land reclamation in order to implement the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In addition, she oversaw the Applicant Violator System and technical training programs. Ms. Blanchard's other positions at OSM have included Special Assistant to the Director where she headed the agency's Interim Management Team which developed management guidance for turning the bureau into a highly functioning organization. This guidance was a model for inclusion of employees and customers in its implementation. Earlier, she held various branch chief and staff positions within the bureau where she managed and improved the surface coal mining and reclamation operations on Federal and Indian lands.
In between her two tenures at OSM, Ms. Blanchard served in OEPC as Senior Environmental Review Officer for Minerals activities and National Environmental Policy Act compliance. There she served as DOI's representative on Federal Catastrophic Disaster Response Group for planning and implementing response to earthquakes which included revising the Departmental procedures for quickly assessing the impact on bureau facilities impacted by earthquakes. She later organized and managed the Hazardous Materials Management Division which oversaw DOI's compliance for treatment, disposal, and cleanup of hazardous and solid wastes on DOI's lands and facilities.
Ms. Blanchard received various awards including the Department of the Interior's two highest awards-the Distinguished Service award and the Meritorious Service award as well as the Interior Women's Distinguished Leadership Award. Groups under her leadership have also earned unit awards.
Before her Federal Service, Ms. Blanchard was one of the first employees in the Surface Mining and Reclamation Division of the Texas Railroad Commission where she developed and implemented the permitting system for coal and uranium mine land reclamation in Texas. She was appointed by the Governor of Texas to the Interstate Mining Compact Commission. She also served in the Environmental Planning Division of the Texas General Land Office where she provided research and coordination on environmental planning and review and development of the coastal zone management program.
Ms. Blanchard, a native Texan, has an A.A. with honors from Stephens College and a B.A. and an M.A. from The University of Texas. She was a Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard University. Ms. Blanchard received the Stephens College Alumnae Achievement Award in 2007. She also serves as an officer in Executive Women in Government. She also teaches flute and is a Master Gardener.