REI CEO Sally Jewell Picked as Interior Secretary (Updated)

posted by dpm on 02/06/2013

Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor retail giant REI, has been picked by president Obama as the head of the Interior Department. Though still unofficial, the president is expected to announce her nomination this afternoon. The interior department is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives,Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and to insular areas of the United States.Yahoo news states that, "among other things, the next interior secretary will lead the department's implementation of controversial rules governing the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands, oversee the push to drill in the Arctic, and guide the policies governing permits of renewable energy on federal land."

Sally Jewell. Photo: Janet Jensen/Tacoma News/

Jewell appears to be a clear choice for the position having a thorough understanding of the oil business and the outdoor recreation business; two sectors that oftentimes find themselves divided on policy decisions. Before joining REI in 1996, Jewell worked in commercial banking and as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corporation. In 2000, she took over as Chief Executive Officer of the $2 billion-a-year, Seattle-based outdoor retail chain. She's been a proponent of land conservation, acted as a founding board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which focuses on a stretch of land spanning from Puget Sound across the Cascades, and helped lay out a plan for the National Park Service as a commissioner on the “National Parks Second Century Commission.”

From the Washington Post, "Wyss Foundation president Molly McUsic, whose group focuses on land conservation, wrote in an e-mail that Jewell “understands the full economic potential of America’s resources. She knows the oil and gas business from having worked at Mobil and in the banking industry, but also understands the growing economic potential of America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation industry,” McUsic added. “She knows that to grow the economy, development of energy resources must be on equal ground with the protection of places that drive tourism, travel, and recreation.

Jewell, who lists her hobbies as mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, and kayaking, might soon be the highest ranking government official/climber since president Teddy Roosevelt, who climbed the Matterhorn in 1881! Having someone who understands the value of our climbing areas in a position wholly devoted to land management certainly seems like a good thing for climbers. In a 2005 interview with the Seattle Times, Jewell voiced her leadership philosophy as "transparency and openness and listening and that nobody lets their position go their head."

Old school internet meme circa 1881. Teddy Roosevelt, our nation's 26th president (1901-1909), climbed the Matterhorn while in Europe honeymooning with his first wife Alice. Alice did not accompany him on the climb. Roosevelt abandoning his wife to go climbing while on his honeymoon might be the first in a long line of subsequent romantic blunders made by climbers worldwide. 

Sources: washington post, associated press, seattle times, huffington post, wikipedia, yahoo news, cnn, theodoreroosevelt,com


The American Alpine Club has issued a press release expressing their support of Jewell's nomination which became official on Wednesday, the 6th of February, 2013. From the AAC:


February 8, 2013, Golden, CO—Yesterday the White House announced the nomination of REI Chief Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the Interior. The American Alpine Club (AAC) applauds the nomination of Jewell as a good choice for America. We would like to acknowledge the significance of this nomination to the climbing and mountaineering community. The AAC advocates for opportunities to climb on American public lands and the importance of protecting the places we climb. Jewell has a strong track record in both protecting public land and getting more Americans—including our youth—outdoors. We look forward to collaborating with her to protect even more public lands and encourage even more citizens to get outdoors, climb, and conserve the places we love.

“We at the American Alpine Club are extremely pleased to see a climber like Sally Jewell be nominated for Secretary of the Interior,” said Executive Director Phil Powers. “Climbers are a diverse group with wide-ranging backgrounds and politics, but there is one thing we all agree on—we must protect the public lands where we find our crags and mountains.”

The AAC would also like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for his successful term leading the department. In particular, his important contribution of launching America’s Great Outdoors initiative did much to elevate the significance of recreation and conservation of public lands in our country.