Jewell Confirmed by Senate as Interior Secretary

Sally Jewell, an outdoor-equipment executive and former petroleum engineer and commercial banker, won Senate confirmation to become U.S. Interior secretary in a bipartisan Senate vote.

Jewell’s nomination won approval today 87-11.

The chief executive officer of outfitter Recreational Equipment Inc., Jewell pledged in her confirmation hearing to balance conflicting demands in using federal land for recreation, conservation, mining and forestry.

“She is the right person to oversee the multitude of programs” in the Interior Department, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said before the vote. “She understands there is an enormous challenge to balance these dual roles of conserving and developing.”

In hearings leading up to the vote, Republican senators such as Wyoming’s John Barrasso had questioned her ties to environmental groups that had opposed oil and coal use near national parks or on government lands. While at Kent, Washington-based REI, Jewell has helped lead groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association that pushed the government to curb fossil-fuel mining in or near public lands.

‘Keen Understanding’

“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,” President Barack Obama said in a statement after the Senate vote.

Jewell, 57, will replace Ken Salazar at the Interior Department, a sprawling, 70,000-employee agency that manages national parks along with 500 million acres of mineral-rich land. Interior also oversees development of offshore resources.

Given its large holdings in Alaska and other western states, “when it comes to cabinet positions, this is one we are going to pay attention to,” Republican Lisa Murkowski said on the Senate floor. “We all have instances, where people from the state we represent have to go knock on the door of some federal agency, and they don’t feel like they are being adequately heard.”

Murkowski said she was “very impressed with her level of sincerity,” and said she also supported Jewell.

Jewell is an accomplished mountain climber, expert skier and longtime bicycle commuter, and was supported for the Interior post by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

She pledged to resign her post at REI once confirmed by the Senate.

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