Sam Pryor Campground, Minnewaska State Park

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid Named New President & CEO of the Open Space Institute

Image Credit: Steve Aaron

NEW YORK CITY, NY (Jan 24, 2024)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid will serve as its next President and CEO.

“The Open Space Institute enthusiastically welcomes Erik Kulleseid back to the OSI family,” said OSI Board co-chairs John Adams and Amelia Salzman in a joint statement. “After a rigorous national search, we are thrilled that Commissioner Kulleseid has accepted this leadership position. His lifelong commitment to conservation, efforts to broaden public access to open space, strategic use of land protection strategies to address climate change and biodiversity loss, and his exemplary management and leadership skills make him the perfect choice to lead OSI into our next era.”

A man smiling into the camera.
Erik Killeseid, OSI's next President and CEO

The selection of Commissioner Kulleseid marks his return to OSI, one of the nation’s leading land conservation organizations. During his original eight-year stint at OSI, Kulleseid oversaw the creation of OSI’s parks initiative aimed at making protected land more accessible and welcoming to all people.

Commissioner Kulleseid will succeed Christopher “Kim” Elliman, who has led OSI since 2004 and has overseen dramatic programmatic and geographic expansion throughout the organization. The leadership transition coincides with the organization's 50th anniversary. Since 1974, OSI has protected more than 2.4 million acres of land throughout the eastern United States and Canada.

“I could not be more excited by the opportunity to lead OSI, an organization with an unbeatable record of on-the-ground results, tremendously talented people, and a mission that aligns with my personal ethic,” said Kulleseid. “For decades OSI has been at the forefront of employing innovative approaches to save the land that matters most for our communities, wildlife, and the protection of critical natural resources. There is no finer organization doing this work in the eastern U.S. and I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Kim Elliman, John Adams, and many others who have made OSI what it is today and set its course for great success moving forward.”

“It has been a personal and professional honor to lead OSI over the past three decades and I am excited to transfer leadership of this extraordinary organization to my friend and former colleague, Erik Kulleseid,” said Elliman. “Erik knows the land, he knows parks, and he is extraordinarily well versed in the challenges and solutions to environmental problems. I am thrilled he will be heading up OSI.”

Kulleseid’s decades-long conservation career has been built on protecting land for public use and natural resource protection through formative years at the Trust for Public Land and prior government service as Deputy Commissioner for Open Space Protection at New York State Parks. He has served as New York State Parks Commissioner since 2019.

His tenure as parks commissioner has been highlighted by his leadership of State Parks through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as major capital initiatives including the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn; creating a breathtaking, state-of-the-art welcome center at Niagara Falls State Park; the new Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center on Long Island; the creation of the new Sojourner Truth State Park in Kingston; and the opening of the Autism Nature Trail in Letchworth State Park, a first-of-its kind trail designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum and their families. State Parks have set annual attendance records in every year of his tenure.

At State Parks, Commissioner Kulleseid focused on rebuilding New York's unsurpassed state park system, expanding access to the broadest cross-section of New Yorkers and visitors, embracing new technologies and efficiencies, and fostering the commercial, nonprofit, and volunteer public-private partnerships that are so crucial for delivering the best visitor experience possible.

After Mr. Elliman’s announcement of his plans to retire in May 2023, OSI’s Board of Trustees initiated a national search for a successor in conjunction with search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

About the Open Space Institute (OSI)

The Open Space Institute is a national leader in land conservation and efforts to make parks and other protected land more welcoming for all. Since 1974, OSI has partnered in the protection of more than 2.4 million at-risk and environmentally sensitive acres in the eastern U.S. and Canada. OSI’s land protection promotes clean air and water, improves access to recreation, provides wildlife habitat, strengthens communities, and combats climate change, while curbing its devastating effects.

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