The outdoor industry is abuzz with the news that one of its own, REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell, is set to become the 51st Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to announce Jewell's nomination today at 2 p.m., Eastern time. Details of the nomination, however, were reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times on Wednesday morning.
In a statement from the Outdoor Industry Association, President and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer expressed confidence in Obama’s decision to appoint Jewell, whom the Atlantic magazine described as the "ultimate outdoorswoman." Hugelmeyer noted Jewell's awareness of the economic importance of preserving natural resources and lands.
“Ms. Jewell recognizes that our nation’s natural resources support the economy, local communities and the people whose lives depend on having access to quality places in the great outdoors,” Hugelmeyer said in the statement. “Treasury secretaries are chosen from the investment world, so it is appropriate that a Secretary for the Interior would be nominated from the outdoor recreation business world.”
According to the OIA, half of all Americans participate in outdoor activities annually, spending about $646 billion to do so and supporting more than 6.1 million sustainable American jobs.
"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," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told Reuters.
Jewell will replace Interior Sec. Ken Salazar, who earlier this year announced he would not stay through Obama’s second term. Jewell, a graduate of the University of Washington, has been with REI for the past decade, first as a board member, then chief operating officer and finally CEO. She previously worked as a petroleum engineer and before that in the finance sector as a banking executive.
"Sally is a remarkable leader, an excellent business person and a thoughtful steward of our public lands and resources," REI officials said in a statement. "We believe that she will do a superb job in this very important role."
The REI statement said that during Jewell's tenure with the co-op, sales have increased from $1 billion to nearly $2 billion, 71 stores have opened and the company has been named as one of Fortune Magazine's top companies to work for. In addition, Jewell has championed volunteer stewardship of public landsand made strong efforts to manage REI’s environmental footprint.
The Interior Department manages the U.S. National Park Service and oversees approximately a fifth of the nation’s land mass and offshore oil fields. According to Reuters, approximately 30 percent of the nation's oil and gas production and 40 percent of the nation's coal come from land managed by Interior.