Letters From the West

Jewell expresses support for using Antiquities Act as Interior Secretary

REI CEO Sally Jewell testifies before Senate committee  during confirmation hearing.

REI CEO Sally Jewell testifies before Senate committee during Interior confirmation hearing.(Rocky Barker/Idaho Statesman)

Interior nominee Sally Jewell said this morning she sees the Antiquities Act as a “very very important avenue” for protecting special places.

But Jewell also said  “understanding how the communities feel and connecting with the communities in some way,” is an important part of the process of designating national monuments. She began a confirmation hearing before the Energy and Natural Resource Committee.

Jewell was grilled Thursday about her involvement with groups like the National Parks and Conservation Association, which sue the federal government and have cases pending. Wyoming Sen. Mike Barrasso asked whether she would recuse herself from decisions in cases from the groups. She said she will follow the ethics guidelines.

The REI CEO also brushed off questions about her views on a carbon tax. She said it is not an issue she will address as Interior Secretary.

But she said she supports a all-of-the-above energy policy and talked about working on the Alaska Pipeline in the 1970s. The former banker and petroleum engineer also said she had not fracked a gas well since 1979.

“How did you get nominated by this administration?,” said Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.

Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch used all his time to tell of the conflict between BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service over sage grouse in Owyhee County. He noted her recognition as a CEO that business needs “certainty and clarity” and that Idaho ranchers have 2000 grazing permits on public lands.

“They need certainty and clarity they don’t have it,” Risch said.

Earlier, Jewell explained what she brings to the job as a business executive.

“I’m certainly not afraid to make a decision when a decision needs to be made,” Jewell said.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders asked Jewell if she thought climate change is a hoax.

“There is no question in my mind that it is true and there is scientific evidence to back it up,” Jewell said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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