News outlets reported this morning that President Obama will name Sally Jewell, CEO of the outdoor company REI, as his next Secretary of the Interior. As the Washington Post wrote, Jewell:

…has earned national recognition for her management skills and support for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation.  In 2011 Jewell introduced Obama at the White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative,” noting that the…outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs.

The Department of the Interior is the agency responsible for the management of 700 million acres of public lands onshore, in addition to nearly a billion acres offshore. It oversees areas important to American culture and history, like national parks and national seashores, in addition to a significant amount of fossil and renewable energy development like solar energy and offshore wind.

Jewell, if confirmed by the Senate, embodies the true meaning of conservation in the 21st century.  At the helm of a $2 billion dollar company, she understands the economic value of conservation that requires it to be on equal ground with energy development on public lands.  This type of leadership is particularly important in a time of changing climate.

But a steady chorus is growing to encourage a better balance between energy development and conservation when it comes to public lands and
waters.  In fact, just yesterday, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt called on the current administration to permanently protected one acre for every one leased for oil and gas development.  He noted that:

So far under President Obama, industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas. Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected.  This lopsided public land administration in favor of the oil and gas industry cannot continue.

There are a number of important and controversial decisions regarding public lands and waters that are upcoming.  But the nomination of Sally Jewell seems to indicate a recognition that other uses of public lands and waters like scenery, conservation, clean air and water, and their role in adaptation to climate change are just as important—especially economically—as energy development.