In announcing his choice of Jewell to succeed outgoing Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar, the president called Jewell "an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future."
Jewell, who must be confirmed by the Senate, began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil and worked as a commercial banker before becoming CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc, a nearly $2 billion outdoors equipment company. She has less public policy experience than other candidates who were reported to be under consideration but has been nationally recognized for her management skills and support for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation, The Washington Post reported.
Introducing her at the White House, Obama said, "I'm willing to bet she'll be the first secretary of the interior who frequently hikes Mailbox Peak in her native Washington state and who once spent a month climbing mountains in Antarctica."
"She's committed to building our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian country," Obama said. "She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress, that, in fact, those two things need to go hand and hand. She's shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet."
Molly McUsic, president of land conservation-focused Wyss Foundation, told the Post in an email Jewell "understands the full economic potential of America's resources."
"She knows the oil-and-gas business from having worked at Mobil and in the banking industry, but also understands the growing economic potential of America's $646 billion outdoor recreation industry," McUsic said. "She knows that to grow the economy, development of energy resources must be on equal ground with the protection of places that drive tourism, travel and recreation."
Obama said Salazar "has cracked down on waste, he's improved the management of the department to make it work better for the American people, he's ushered in a new era of conservation for our land, our water, and our wildlife."
"He's established seven new national parks, 10 new national wildlife refuges. He's opened more public land and water for safe and responsible energy production, not just gas and oil, but also wind and solar, creating thousands of new jobs and nearly doubling our use of renewable energy in this country.
The president credited Salazar with helping forge "what's probably the strongest working relationship with tribal leaders that the federal government has seen in modern times."