The CEO of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI), Sally Jewell, has been chosen by President Obama to head the Interior Department. If confirmed she will replace outgoing Ken Salazar, current Secretary of the Interior and a former U.S. Senator from Colorado. While in the position, Salazar was instrumental in launching the American’s Great Outdoors initiative, and says Brady Robinson, Executive Director of the Access Fund, “[He] has been helpful in elevating the voice of climbers and outdoor Recreation in Washington, D.C.”
The Secretary of the Interior is in charge of the BLM, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USGS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and can have a direct influence on climbing regulations, including fees and permits, and in some instances whether climbing is allowed at all. An outdoor’s enthusiast and climber who scaled Mt. Vinson in the Antarctia last year, Jewell could bode well for climbing. “Her love of the outdoors and integrity shine through in everything she does,” says Nancy Bouchard, of Five Ten, who had done Ranier and climbed at Smith Rocks with the nominee.
Jewell, a former banker and petroleum engineer, became COO of REI in 2000 and CEO in 2005. The multi-billion dollar company was founded in Seattle in 1938, and setup as a coop so climbers and campers would purchase affordable gear.Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Everest, was REI’s first fulltime employee, hired as the CEO in the 1960s.
Jewell’s qualifications make her a “great choice for Interior Secretary,” says Robinson, who add that although Salazar will be missed by the outdoor community, “Being on a first name basis with the [new] Secretary of the Interior would be a great thing for climbers.”