Moab Happenings Archive
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Flying Under the Radar: The New Faces of
Canyonlands Natural History Association
by Nancy Kurtz

According to Canyonlands National History Association’s (CNHA) new executive director Sam Wainer, what they do is complicated. “We fund so much!” he exclaims.

CNHA was chartered in 1967, when Moab was still relatively undiscovered. The stated mission was to help finance educational programs related to the National Parks in Southeastern Utah. Funding was to come primarily through sales at various retail outlets, including the shops at Arches Visitor Center and, later on, at the in-town Moab Information Center, fondly known as “the MIC”.

Wainer joined CNHA in the 1990s shortly after moving to Moab; it was the early years of Moab’s monumental growth spurt in tourism. His long-term stewardship of the warehouse operation and the all-important retail outlets that provide the lions’ share of funding for CNHA turned out to be highly profitable—during his tenure, retail sales tripled—and he tells me his recent promotion to executive director is perfectly timed.

It was bound to be a time of transition: both the prior executive director and the accounting manager of 22 years had disclosed plans to retire. CNHA wisely decided to promote from within.

One of many park supporting nonprofits across the country, CNHA helps out the parks by doing what federal agencies cannot do—raise much-needed funding for the many perks and educational benefits they offer. “The sheer amount of money we donate is unique,” Wainer says.

CNHA is also unique among similar entities elsewhere, in that in addition to the parks and monuments in Southeast Utah, it supports the local Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. In 2023 alone, CNHA donated more than $2 million; since its inception the agency has garnered upwards of $22 million for its partners.

Wainer’s resume in brief: He is a multifaceted veteran hiker/camper, father of two college students, rock and roll drummer, and long-time local radio dj. And he’s excited about his transition, noting that he learned a lot from departing executive director Roxanne Bierman, and is looking forward to working with incoming accounting manager Kelly Huseby, who has also been recently promoted from within, to, as he puts it, “up the ante” and give even more financial support to the partners.

And then there is the community-at-large. Just a few of the various ways CNHA has broadened its mission: Funding tribal consultations to develop plans for the Bears Ears National Monument and enabling a reseeding project in the La Sal Mountains following the destruction caused by the Pack Creek fire in 2021. CNHA has helped to expand Moab’s all-important avalanche program for the La Sal Mountains and more recently funded a new e-bike program for patrols in back country areas.

Notably and just this past year, CNHA ventured into the housing market, up to and including buying housing for employees of the agency and its partners. Wainer would like to expand this program, helping beneficiaries build homes on their own land, for starters. He also is looking to bolster financial support in general.

An ambitious agenda, but CNHA’s new director is upbeat. “We’re in a good place,” he says, proudly pointing to continuing financial stability together with a strong staff and Board of Directors that has functioned well over the years. “I don’t have to fix anything.”

You can visit the CNHA website complete with monthly newsletter and merchandise at
The best way to contact CNHA is by email:
And be sure to mention you read about CNHA in Moab Happenings.

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