Jewell Job: ‘Not Thankless But Controversial’

August 28, 2013 by · Comments Off on Jewell Job: ‘Not Thankless But Controversial’ 

Sally Jewell

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management engineer and volunteers who staff an interpretive exhibit at remote Turn Point, furthest west spot in the San Juan Islands, received a surprise visit last week from their vacationing boss.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell walked out to the the vastly scenic spot on Stuart Island, introduced herself and received an impromptu briefing on asbestos removal at the lighthouse, part of the new San Juan Islands National Monument, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Sally Jewell, ex-CEO at Recreational Equipment, Inc., a lover of cold high places now on the hot seat as President Obama’s Interior secretary.

The former CEO at Recreational Equipment Inc. is now chief overseer of a domain that includes America’s national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields and vast tracts of land (and islands) of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“No, there’s no easy decisions in this job, outside of speaking at a naturalization ceremony for new citizens,” said Jewell, who spoke at a naturalization ceremony for 21 new citizens at the Refugee Women’s Alliance in Seattle. Jewell emigrated to the U.S. from England with her parents as a young girl.

In a sit-down afterwards with, the former Seattle executive and outdoors activist spoke of a job she described as “not thankless, but controversial.”

Map showing Stuart Island’s location at the junction of Haro Strait and Boundary Pass. The U.S. border with Canada runs near the islands. Map courtesy of Wikipedia

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Interior’s Jewell in 1st Congressional Hearing

July 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Interior’s Jewell in 1st Congressional Hearing 

Sally Jewell

Washington state is home to two key players when it comes to national environmental policy: Sally Jewell, the Department of Interior secretary and a Seattle resident, and Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a Republican from Pasco.

The two hail from opposite sides of Washington’s “Cascade Curtain” dividing line that politically and culturally separates the state.

And they faced off for the first time Tuesday on Capitol Hill, during Jewell’s first appearance in a committee hearing, reported.

Click here to read what happened.


Jewell Addresses Western Governors Confab

July 1, 2013 by · Comments Off on Jewell Addresses Western Governors Confab 

Sally Jewell

New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell traveled to a political lion’s den Friday (June 28) – a gathering in Park City, Utah, of Western governors who complained about federal control of public lands that make up much of the West and Alaska.

In a private moment, she won over the politicians with promises of collaboration, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

Jewell devoted much of her prepared remarks to the importance of outdoor recreation as a major economic driver, even as many of the governors put their priority on energy development, the Modesto (Calif.) Bee reported.

“Finding the balance starts by understanding each other,” Jewell told Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who challenged her on the right use of public lands. “I can tell you that having spent quite a bit of time over the years in Moab, and hiking in Canyonlands and Arches, that balance to that community is healthy national parks that are well staffed, that can service the people.”

In other places of the West, balance means maintaining grazing rights for ranchers, she added.

Jewell took office in April. The former chief of Recreational Equipment Inc., a $2 billion retailer of outdoor gear, she represented a new face for a cabinet post more often associated with ranching or oil, gas and mining interests. On Friday, she made clear she was bringing a different perspective to the competing forces over use of the federal government’s vast lands.

Jewell has a varied background that includes a stint as petroleum engineer, and she gave a nod Friday to “more efficient” government approvals for oil and gas drilling. Delays in issuing drilling permits for lease sales emerged Friday as one of the biggest complaints voiced at the Western Governors’ Association annual meeting at a resort hotel in Park City.

In response, Neil Kornze, principal deputy director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), said his agency was speeding up an approval process that can take years, but he also turned the question around.

Kornze said that oil and gas companies are sitting on 7,000 drilling permits, taking no action to sink a well.

The BLM approval process was slowed over the years by environmental protests, which held up half of all drilling permits, he said. But protests over government lease sales for drillers on public lands are declining because BLM is devoting more study to where drilling is appropriate, he said.

Now, only 20% of BLM-approved drilling projects are being held up by protests that trigger internal environmental reviews, he said.

Jewell left the governors’ meeting shortly after delivering her public remarks, but said she planned to linger in Utah Saturday for a hike in the Oquirrh mountains.

Jewell signaled no definitive policy shifts, but she hasn’t been in office long enough, said Hickenlooper, who is replacing Utah’s governor as chairman of the Western Governors’ Association.

During a private lunch Friday, Jewell pledged to collaborate with Western governors on every major federal decision affecting public lands. “it was “the first question she was asked,” Hickenlooper said.

Several governors said at a news conference held after Jewell’s departure that they embraced her vision of outdoor recreation as an important use of federal lands. But Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said the government’s vision of recreation can be “dysfunctional” when federal agencies shut down forest roads to vehicles or close trails to protect land.

“A large portion of Idaho is federal land, and we need more cooperation,” he said.

The Western governors’ annual meeting concluded Sunday.


Sally Jewell: Sequestration ‘Very, Very Difficult’

May 7, 2013 by · Comments Off on Sally Jewell: Sequestration ‘Very, Very Difficult’ 

Sally Jewell

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a Senate committee today (May 7) that the automatic spending cuts now hitting her budget are distracting the department from carrying out its mission.

“I know it’s not where you want us to go; it’s not where we want to go,” Jewell told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing her spending blueprints, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“It’s very, very difficult,” Jewell continued. “It’s hard on employees who are hard working, to all the things that you care about as well. They’re really taking it on the chin. It’s just very, very difficult to carry out the mission the way it is affected.”

Already, Jewell noted, national parks are seeing a reduction in services and some oil and gas lease sales were halted in California because of budget constraints.

Automatic budget cuts of about 10% hit most federal agencies after Congress failed to pass a stopgap measure.

National park officials in Utah previously said that the cuts could be absorbed without visitors seeing much of an impact, although seasonal openings were delayed and visitor hours scaled down in many national parks and monuments in the region.

Senator Chides Jewell for Sequester Spending

May 1, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Two months after the sequester hit, the Department of Interior continues to warn of coast-to-coast cuts for the country’s national parks — and even the partial shutdown of a critical flood warning system.

But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says there’s “no shortage of potential savings,” pointing out that the department is nevertheless spending millions on newly created monuments and landmarks, Fox News reported.

Coburn, who has been hounding federal agencies for weeks about questionable spending under the cloud of sequester, aired his grievances with the Interior Department in a letter to Secretary Sally Jewell Tuesday (April 30).

“It makes little sense to expand the number of sites at the same time the budget of every other park is being cut and visitors are being turned away from visiting the White House,” Coburn wrote.

Coburn pointedly questioned department efforts to name new sites and expand others — decisions that will contribute to the department’s annual costs. Coburn said the National Park Service has designated 13 new historic landmarks and three new monuments since the sequester hit March 1. One of those landmarks, he noted, is a whiskey distillery — the George T. Stagg Distillery in Kentucky. Other newly created landmarks include the Connecticut home of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, the historic bridge crossed by civil rights marchers in Selma, Ala., and an artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Coburn also said the NPS is trying to acquire new land elsewhere for existing parks, and urged the department to “cease” until normal access to U.S. parks has been restored.

Coburn also questioned whether the department needed to be spending money on drone surveillance of animal populations ranging from sheep in Nevada to pygmy rabbits in Idaho. Coburn cited several population counts that are expected to be conducted later this year.

Despite these expenses, the Associated Press reported in late April that the U.S. Geological Survey — which is part of the Interior Department — was preparing to shut down more than 100 gauges that warn about possible flooding or water shortages.

Plus department officials have repeatedly discussed the impact on national parks. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis testified last month that the sequester would lead to “delayed road openings, reduced hours of operation for programs and services and fewer programs and patrols.”

In response to Coburn’s letter, Interior spokesman Blake Androff said the department cannot move money around so easily.

“Sequestration requires an across-the-board cut to all programs and accounts and does not allow the flexibility to rob Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “The Department of the Interior has already taken aggressive steps to reduce spending across the agency and will continue to look for innovative ways to cut costs while preserving our mission essential activities.”

Roughly half the department budget pays staff, which is far more than at other agencies. The department argues that the sequester cuts, then, have a significant impact on services — seasonal hiring, for instance, had to be drastically cut back, which impacts programs at national parks.

Federal agencies have each responded differently to the sequester. The Federal Aviation Administration rattled lawmakers after it furloughed air traffic controllers, leading to delays at major U.S. airports. Congress, though, intervened by allowing the FAA to move money around, in turn canceling those furloughs.

The private business community also has stepped in. At Yellowstone National Park, two cities stepped up when the National Park Service decided to save money by plowing snow two weeks later than usual. This would have delayed the clearing of four park gates well past the typical May 1 opening, so city officials held a fundraiser and collected enough money to pay the state to clear the roads, ensuring the gates will be open on time.

Coburn cited this as a positive example in his letter, and urged the department to find more savings.

“I believe the Department can continue to maintain this same level access even under sequestration,” he wrote. “To accomplish this, the Department must prioritize its core mission, eliminate unnecessary, wasteful, and duplicative programs, and find innovative ways to do more with less.”



Interior Secretary Jewell True Outdoorswoman

April 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on Interior Secretary Jewell True Outdoorswoman 

Sally Jewell

Sally Jewell bounded up a granite boulder near the peak of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park and turned back to her hiking companion, who was staring up at the smooth rock that offered no obvious hand- or footholds.

“Trust your feet,” she said.

That mountaineer’s mantra has carried  Jewell through a lifetime of challenging ascents and a varied career as petroleum engineer, banker and retail executive, the New York Times reported. On April 12, she was sworn in as the 51st secretary of the interior.

Jewell, 57, who has climbed Mount Rainier seven times along with some of the world’s highest peaks, said that she is happiest on the steepest part of the learning curve. A woman of untamed energy, competitiveness and confidence in the boardroom and on a mountain trail, she is undertaking perhaps the greatest challenge of her life as she assumes command of a huge bureaucracy in a city that festers barely above sea level.

Until President Obama tapped her as interior secretary to succeed Ken Salazar, a former Democratic senator from Colorado,  Jewell was chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc. in Kent, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. She has never held elective office, though she has served as member of the board of trustees of the University of Washington and at a variety of nonprofits. She has spent little time in what residents of the Pacific Northwest call “the other Washington.”

Like many successful corporate titans who have come to Washington before her, she will learn that running a business or a university board is not necessarily adequate training for a top government post. She noted during a five-hour round-trip hike of Old Rag, for example, that no rational business executive would cut an operating budget across the board, as the federal budget process known as the sequester requires. And she said that no matter how determined she is to spend her time promoting outdoor recreation or increasing renewable energy production, events can rudely intrude.

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Jewell & Jarvis Celebrate National Park Week

April 26, 2013 by · Comments Off on Jewell & Jarvis Celebrate National Park Week 

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell (right) and NPS Director Jon Jarvis with a student in Virginia studying nature.  Photo by Tami A. Heilemann

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and students from Stonewall Middle School at Prince William Forest Park near Triangle, Va., to celebrate National Park Week and highlight the importance of outdoor recreation and education, especially to young people.

Jewell also held a stakeholder meeting to explore ways to leverage public-private partnerships at national parks to better connect youth and families to nature and outdoor recreation – one of the major goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative – and to promote economic growth and support jobs in local communities, eNews Park Forest reported.

“When we spark a fire of passion for the outdoors in our children, we give them a lifelong gift of being able to enjoy nature and live healthier lives,” Jewell said. “We also lay the foundation for the next generation of conservationists, scientists, business leaders, teachers and beyond that will understand the key role that national parks and public lands play in local communities, drawing visitors and boosting the economy.”

Jewell and Jarvis joined students from Stonewall Middle School in Prince William County, Va., in a residential field science program offered in partnership between Prince William Forest Park and NatureBridge. In the program, students live and learn in the park, extending classroom learning with hands-on water-testing experiments of their own design and learning about the Great Depression-era history of the park.

“It is hard to overstate the vital role our partners play in our national parks, allowing us to offer the public programs and services we otherwise could not offer,” Jarvis said. “Here at Prince William Forest Park, NatureBridge reaches out to children, especially in urban areas, and gives them a chance to hike through the woods, sit by a stream, learn about ecosystems and marvel at the miracles of the world around us.”

“We are grateful that Secretary Jewell and Director Jarvis are committed to increasing hands-on learning opportunities for students in national parks,” said Susan Smartt, CEO of NatureBridge. “One of our students this week said it best, ‘This experience has been like nothing I’ve done before. I never realized how much I can learn outside the classroom.’”

Prince William Forest Park is the largest green space in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, established in 1936 to provide a camp where low-income, inner-city children and families could get away and experience the great outdoors.

More than 2,000 workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park – originally named the Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area – and it became a model for the entire nation, one of 46 such land-use projects.

In 2009, the Department of the Interior established the Office of Youth in the Great Outdoors to provide leadership, coordination, direction, and oversight regarding the promotion, use, and expansion of programs to engage, educate, and employ youth. Since then the department has built one of the largest and most visible youth programs at the national level, employing more than 84,000 youth ages 15 to 25 through direct hires and partnerships.

Through the Let’s Move! Outside and Let’s Move! in Indian Country programs, which are both offshoots of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, the department has provided information and opportunities for families to get active in nature – from urban parks and open spaces, to national parks, seashores, forests, and other public lands.

The department also has partnered with nonprofit organizations to promote active lifestyles through nationwide events, including National Kids to Parks Day, National Trails Day, National Get Outdoors Day, and National Public Lands Day. In 2012, these events engaged more than 300,000 youth and families in active recreation and service projects on public lands and waters.


Newspaper: Jewell Good for Interior Dept.

April 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on Newspaper: Jewell Good for Interior Dept. 

Sally Jewell

Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in the Casper (Wyo.) Tribune.

One week ago, The United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Sally Jewell as the next secretary of interior. At the helm of the federal department that encompasses the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and other agencies responsible for stewardship of our public lands and waters, she will have a positive impact on Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy, while being mindful of our energy portfolio.

Jewell’s resume demonstrates the balance sought when managing diverse interests on federal lands. She spent her early career as a petroleum engineer and evolved to become the chief executive of outdoor retailer giant REI. Through her experience, Jewell understands that our nation’s public lands directly support the economy, both through responsible energy development and through access to recreational opportunities.

In Wyoming, we know that having a robust energy portfolio does not require sacrificing our inspiring landscapes. Careful planning and local input ensure that we can have both. The success of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act is an excellent example of our state’s ability to achieve that balance. With the focus on activities in the outdoors that Jewell would bring to the Department of Interior, Wyoming’s record of success can be a model for the nation.

Outdoor recreation is already a significant economic driver in our state. It generates $4.5 billion in consumer spending and $300 million in state and local tax revenue (based on a report by the Outdoor Industry Association based on surveys taken in 2011 and 2012). It directly sustains 50,000 jobs in the state, and supports $1.4 billion in wages and salaries. Towns like Cody, Lander and Jackson are heavily dependent on the outdoor recreation economy.

Indeed, most of us live here for the outdoor opportunities available. Whether hiking, climbing, horsepacking, four-wheeling, biking, fishing, hunting, birding or myriad other activities, we hold dear our access to public lands and the opportunities they provide. Jewell, too, thrives outside, and is an avid skier, kayaker and mountaineer.

Jewell’s values are reflected in her advocacy. In her time at REI, she was closely involved in efforts to promote opportunities on public lands. She engaged in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which fostered a national conversation on connecting people with the outdoors, providing access opportunities, and seeking out partnerships. Through her close association with the initiative, she gained a solid understanding of the ongoing priorities for the Department of Interior.

At the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), we are keenly aware of the value gained from having someone with an understanding of the significance and the benefits of recreation on public lands as the secretary of interior. From national parks to the Bureau of Land Management, NOLS operates extensively on Department of Interior lands across Wyoming and the American West. Teaching in these unique landscapes provides immeasurable opportunities for our students to develop as skilled outdoors people and mature into positive ethical leaders who understand complex land use issues.

With this new face of leadership at the Department of Interior, we have high hopes that our priorities in this state will be reflected in the management of the BLM and the national parks. Getting young people into the outdoors, making public lands accessible to outdoor enthusiasts, and supporting the economy that continues to thrive on these values need to be priorities as we progress in the 21st century.


Sally Jewell to Show Balance at Interior Post

April 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Sally Jewell to Show Balance at Interior Post 

Sally Jewell

Sally Jewell, who was confirmed Wednesday (April 10) by the Senate as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has made it clear she intends to strike a balance between the dual roles of conserving and developing resources, WFAA-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth, reported.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said. “That’s exactly the right approach to take on the diverse issues facing Interior, including safely developing natural gas, maximizing jobs and opportunities from recreation and improving management of federal forests.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she worked closely with Jewell on wilderness legislation in Washington state and was confident that Jewell “will bring her skills as an effective CEO in the business community to the cabinet.”

The Senate vote came after Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, lifted a “hold” on Jewell’s nomination. Risch and other lawmakers, including Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., have expressed concern that the Interior Department appears likely to list the sage grouse as an endangered species. Offering protections for the bird under the Endangered Species Act could severely restrict ranching, grazing, mining and other activities on public land in their states, the senators said.

Risch lifted the hold after the Interior Department agreed in writing to use the best science available and work in a “collaborative” way with Idaho officials on the sage grouse.

“Only by working together can we achieve solutions that are acceptable to all parties,” Risch said in a statement, adding that he was pleased Jewell agreed with that approach.

Jewell, CEO of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., won easy Senate confirmation. The Senate approved her nomination, 87-11, with all the no votes coming from Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among those who opposed Jewell.
At Interior, Jewell will oversee more than 500 million acres of national parks and other public lands, plus more than 1 billion acres offshore. The lands are used for energy development, mining, recreation and other purposes.

One of the first challenges Jewell will face is a proposed rule requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

The administration proposed a draft “fracking” rule last year, but twice has delayed a final rule amid complaints by the oil and gas industry that the original proposal was too burdensome. A new draft is expected this spring.

Jewell also is expected to continue to push development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, both of which are priorities of the interior secretary she succeeds, Ken Salazar.

President Barack Obama nominated Jewell last month to replace Kenneth Salazar, who announced his departure in January.

Obama said in a statement Tuesday that Jewell’s extensive business experience — including her work as a petroleum engineer — and her longtime commitment to conservation made Jewell the right person for the job.

“She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation’s tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources,” Obama said.

Jewell, 57, of Seattle, also was a banker before taking over Kent, Wash.-based REI in 2005. She also served on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group that works to protect and enhance national parks.


Senate OK’s Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary

April 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on Senate OK’s Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary 

Sally Jewell

The Senate has confirmed Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., as interior secretary, The Associated Press reported.

Jewell will oversee more than 500 million acres of national parks and other public lands, and more than 1 billion acres offshore. The lands are used for energy development, mining, recreation and other purposes. The department also provides services to 566 federally recognized Indian tribes.

The Senate approved her nomination, 87-11.

A lifelong outdoors enthusiast, the 57-year-old Jewell previously worked as a petroleum engineer and banker. She also served on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group that works to protect and enhance national parks.

President Barack Obama’s nominated Jewell last month to replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who announced his departure in January. Jewell is from Seattle.


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