Sally Jewell, the former petroleum engineer and banker who led REI for the last eight years, was sworn in Friday as Secretary of the Interior by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor a day after the Senate voted 87-11 to confirm her nomination.
In her new role, Jewell will have to balance the competing interests of her former industry and its allies in the conservation community with those of the energy, timber, ranching and other extractive industries. Supporters argue her career as a CEO, conservationist, petroleum engineer and banker make her ideal for the job.
The Department of the Interior needs a leader with a balanced vision for the future of the nations lands and waters, and Sally Jewell is that person, said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. We thank Secretary Salazar for his leadership and thoughtful, balanced approach to managing our nations natural resources.
Under Jewell, REI has been a major supporter of OIAs efforts to secure more federal funding for wilderness conservation, outdoor recreation and youth outreach programs. She played a leading role helping the Obama Administration shape Americas Great Outdoors Initiative, which envisions better coordination of government and private conservation efforts. OIA counts the initiative as a major victory because it explicitly recognizes outdoor recreation on public lands as a significant source of jobs and wealth, particularly in rural communities. Jewells interim successor, Brian Unmacht, currently serves as first vice chair on OIAs board of directors.
Jewell will be under tremendous pressure to expand oil and gas exploration on federal lands, including some conservationists want protected or set aside for recreational use. This became evident during confirmation hearings, when many Western Senators asked Jewell what she would do to expedite energy exploration on federal lands and waters. All 11 Senators who voted against Jewells nomination Thursday are Republican.