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Challenges Facing New Interior Secretary

PHOTO: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell arrives at the Department of the Interior. Photo by Tami A. Heilemann, Office of Communications, Department of the Interior.
PHOTO: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell arrives at the Department of the Interior. Photo by Tami A. Heilemann, Office of Communications, Department of the Interior.
April 19, 2013

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – It's the first week on the job for new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The former REI president spent most of this week learning the ropes in Washington and the Department of the Interior. But there are challenges facing the new secretary about public lands in the West.

Peter Dykstra, regional director of The Wilderness Society, says he's optimistic about the choice of Jewell because her past experience shows she understands the connection between conservation of America's public lands and a strong economy.

"Businesses move to communities that have places that people want to live,” Dykstra says. “Public lands near urban areas provide the opportunities for great cultural experiences but also those great outdoors experiences."

And, he says, it's not just tourism jobs. Places such as Boulder and Colorado Springs are booming tech centers, with jobs in computer, aerospace, electronics and other high-paying industries.

Jewell took over the post from Coloradan Ken Salazar, who stepped down earlier this year.

Bill Dvorak runs outfitting trips on the Arkansas River, about two hours from Denver. He says at least half of his clients come from Colorado.

"People might come down and do a day or an overnight trip on the river,” he says. “And then we can take them mountain biking, or horseback riding, or teach them how to kayak or rock climb. There's a lot of other things that you can do in the area."

Dykstra says another challenge in Colorado and other western states is how to balance energy demands with other uses of public lands.

"I think having a secretary that can really think through how you can have a good energy policy and a good conservation policy will head the Department of the Interior in the right direction," he says.

Oil and gas industry advocates want that direction to include opening up more lands to development. But Dykstra says conservation groups are seeking a mix that includes a bigger emphasis on using lands for renewable energy.


Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO