By a vote of 87 to 11, the U.S. Senate has confirmed REI’s 56-year-old CEO Jewell as the next interior secretary -- a position that has big implications for Alaska.
Despite the fact that Jewell has never served in public office, groups for and against development here in Alaska are cautiously optimistic that she's the right person for the job.
“She’s coming from the business world, but she’s managed a hugely successful outdoor equipment company,” said Woody. “She’s got a long record in that role being involved in a lot of public land issues.”
“In some ways she’ll be challenged because she probably won’t know the ins and outs of the federal bureaucracy to the extent a tenured interior official might,” said Rick Rogers, Executive Director of the Resource Development Council. “But at the same time, maybe she can bring a fresh perspective with a more business type approach to the agency.”
Two Alaska challenges facing the new Interior Secretary include whether to allow Shell to drill again in Alaska's arctic waters after trouble with both of its arctic drilling vessels, and whether to build a road between Cold Bay and King Cove through a wildlife refuge -- a plan that's already been rejected once by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Groups on opposing sides of those issues believe Jewell will come in with an open mind. They are hopeful that she can find a way to balance the pressures of resource development and the need to protect our public lands.