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Jewell: Interior Dept. Needs More Budget, Less Bickering

PHOTO: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the National Press Club on Thurs. that her department needs budgets it can count on and less Congressional gridlock. Photo courtesy DOI.
PHOTO: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told the National Press Club on Thurs. that her department needs budgets it can count on and less Congressional gridlock. Photo courtesy DOI.
November 1, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell scolded Congress for partisan bickering and pledged to balance energy development with conservation in her remarks on Thursday to the National Press Club.

Jewell said the government shutdown cost communities near national parks $76 million a day in lost tourism revenue.

She added it's hard to run an agency like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Park Service without knowing what its budget is going to be or when it's going to be trimmed.

"Congress needs to deliver a sustainable, thoughtful budget that supports our parks, our forests, our refuges, our rivers and conservation lands,” she said, “and in turn, strengthens our economy, particularly the economy in rural areas."

Jewell also announced a new effort to reach out to people in their 20s and 30s, with training and work opportunities on public land, and a goal to get 1 million people better acquainted with the great outdoors, through school and veterans programs.

Jewell made a strong case for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Its offshore oil and gas development fees are supposed to be used for recreation and conservation projects, but are most often poached by Congress for some other priority. She said that needs to change.

"This is money that has been going into the Treasury every year since 1964, that was set aside for this,” Jewell said. “And it's only been funded once at its full, allocated level since its enactment. And it's time to do that fully."

President Barack Obama has requested that the Land and Water Conservation Fund be fully funded by 2015.

Jewell spoke about the need for more renewable energy development, but she didn't discourage oil and gas exploration. She thinks drilling is possible, but only in some places, and only as long as it's done with sensitivity to the local landscape.

For Ellis Richard, founder of the group Park Rangers for Our Lands, it seems like a good mix.

"I think she has the potential to strike the right balance,” he said. “And I'm very hopeful that in the time that she has in her position, that she can accomplish some of those things."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR