Today, President Obama nominated Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the Interior. Ms. Jewell would bring a diverse and accomplished background to the department. She is well positioned to expand upon the Administration’s balanced approach toward energy development on public lands. This approach is necessary to reign in oil and gas companies that act as if they are the sole owner of our public lands.
“Sally Jewell’s deep knowledge of public lands issues makes her an excellent choice for Secretary of the Interior,” said Ellynne Bannon, western lands program manager for the Checks and Balances Project. “She knows that protecting the public lands that drive tourism, travel, recreation, and agriculture is as important as setting aside lands for energy development. Ms. Jewell has the opportunity to bring more balance to our public lands and ensure that conservation and energy development are on equal ground. Key to finding that balance will be the continued implementation of outgoing Secretary Ken Salazar’s oil and gas leasing reforms.”
The leasing reforms enacted in 2010 help ensure that all stakeholders have a seat at the table and that air quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreational values receive the protections they deserve.
The experience of Colorado demonstrates what happens when oil and gas leasing is allowed to go unchecked without proper public input. Due to Colorado BLM Director Helen Hankins’ failure to implement the leasing reforms, oil and gas protests in Colorado dwarf those in other states. Dir. Hankins has put vital public resources at risk because of a drill first, ask questions later approach to oil and gas leasing.
Ms. Jewell is the CEO of REI, an outdoor retailer, but began her career as an engineer for the oil industry. She serves on the Board of Regents at her alma mater, the University of Washington as well. Ms. Jewell was also key stakeholder in discussions to craft the President’s America’s Great Outdoors program, an agenda for the 21st century to support community-driven conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives.
Ms. Jewell has an excellent opportunity at Interior to remind Congress, as well as the oil and gas industry, that conservation and public lands fuel our economy and create jobs through outdoor recreation and tourism, and cannot be sacrificed for oil and gas companies’ speculative land grabs.