Obama’s pick to head Dept of Interior gets the nod from environmentalists

Environmentalists have cheered the decision by the Obama administration to tap Recreational Equipment Inc. CEO Sally Jewell as secretary of the interior, a position to be vacated by Ken Salazar.

“In Jewell, President Obama chose a leader with a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans – recreation, adventure, and enjoyment,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.

“Jewell’s unique experience and her love of America’s outdoors will be invaluable to the stewardship of the waters, lands and wildlife we’ve been entrusted to protect for our children,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

President Obama remarked that Jewell would play a role in develop policies for promoting clean energy sources and combating climate change. Jewell will also be faced with managing 500 million acres of federal lands during a fierce debate over whether to allow for increased access for oil and gas development.

“America’s public lands and endangered species are in dire need of leadership,” Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement. “We hope Sally Jewell brings the same determination and transparency to running the Department of the Interior as she did to REI. Change at that agency is desperately needed.”

Salazar announced his departure from the Obama administration after volleys of criticism from conservative groups for closing off public lands and offshore areas to drilling, leading to declining oil and gas production on federal lands while production on state and private lands is booming.

“President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have presided over the most abysmal stewardship of public lands in recent history,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research, last October.

Under Salazar, the Interior Department closed off 1.6 million acres in November that were originally slated for shale development. However, Salazar gave the go ahead for 34 renewable energy projects on federal lands — including utility-scale solar facilities, wind farms, as well as geothermal plants.