I’ve often wondered why the men and women charged with protecting our natural resources always seem to come from the industries that harvest them for a profit, rather than from the community that needs them protected for their profits.
President Obama may have just broken that tradition by nominating Sally Jewell, chief executive of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.
In fact, Jewell may be the first nominee that could have allies in several major groups that are contesting management of our public lands. According to the New York Times story on the announcement, before joining REI, Jewell also worked in banking and the oil industry.
The immediate reaction from the outdoors industry and sportsmen’s conservation groups was positive.
“We’re pleased with the choice of Sally Jewell as the new secretary of the Interior,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has worked closely over the last few years with the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade alliance for companies in the outdoor recreation business.
“Ms. Jewell understands firsthand that conservation equals jobs and how public lands fuel the recreation economy, including hunting and fishing. She knows that people need access to our lands and waters and that they demand a quality experience at those places. She also understands the nation’s conservation legacy and how it is threatened by misguided public lands policies, such as the rampant expansion of oil and gas development in sensitive fish and wildlife habitats and shortsighted budget proposals to cut important conservation programs. Sportsmen and -women look forward to working with Ms. Jewell and her team to help restore and preserve America’s rich conservation legacy.”
Jewell will be following Interior Secretary in Salazar who received generally good reviews from sportsmen’s group as he led efforts to reform an almost no-holds-barred energy-leasing program on public lands enforced by the Bush Administration.
But even Salazar’s efforts didn’t lead to a sea change in that area. As pointed out in the Times story, leasing and development under Obama has continued unabated.
Indeed, Fosburgh said of Salazar: “Ken Salazar inherited a department that had veered far off track in terms of its stewardship of our public lands – a department where true multiple use had become subservient to resource extraction. Through his oil and gas leasing reforms and other steps, Secretary Salazar began the process of restoring balance, a job that Sally Jewell is left to finish. In addition, Secretary Salazar has been an unbridled champion of sensible renewable-energy development and strong conservation funding, an area where he has helped maintain the agency’s budget in a very difficult fiscal climate.”