WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, at a hearing for a new Interior chief, said U.S. land isn't just for recreation but for "paychecks" for energy and mining industries.
Sally Jewell, U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for interior secretary, testified at a confirmation hearing in Washington. Jewell is chief executive officer of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. and worked as a petroleum engineer for Mobil before it merged with Exxon.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Jewell needed to convince lawmakers that she'd maintain a sense of balance if she's tasked with overseeing U.S. public lands.
"We need you to affirm that public lands provide not just a playground for recreational enthusiasts, but also paychecks for countless energy producers, miners, loggers and ranchers," she said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, countered that recreation was "a big jobs engine" for the U.S. economy.
"Americans are now spending $646 billion a year on outdoor recreation and generating nearly $40 billion in federal tax revenue, so the economics of public lands have changed in America," he said.
Jewell was quoted by Bloomberg News as telling a western governor's forum in June that protecting "parks, waters and trails is about protecting the economy."