Sally Jewell's confirmation as secretary of the Department of Interior is an important step toward the Obama administration adopting an equal-ground policy for public land use. Jewell's extensive background in recreation and energy development uniquely qualify her to adopt this sort of approach.
Jewell has seen firsthand how tourism and outdoor recreation drive local economies in the West, and those industries need protected land in order to thrive and bring jobs and prosperity to Western communities.
As a business owner in rural Utah, I know how important the quality of our air, water and land is to my bottom line and the jobs I create. My customers expect to experience the great outdoors in its natural state.
Over the last four years, the ratio of conservation to oil and gas leasing has swung out of balance. Roughly 2.5 times as many acres of land were offered for energy development as were set aside for recreation or conservation.
In recent months the pendulum has started to swing back toward the center, and hopefully, will continue to work toward a more balanced approach.
Jewell earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and began her professional career in Western oil and gas fields. She moved to the financial sector, advising banks on oil and gas industry loans, later entering the outdoor recreation industry and rising to chief executive officer of outdoor powerhouse REI.
This wealth of experience in the economic benefits of both recreation and resource extraction makes Jewell the right person to establish balance at Interior.
Energy is important, and you can read in any newspaper how the nation is experiencing a boom in energy production, much of it on private land. Despite what some in the oil and gas industry like to claim, this isn't because of a lack of access to public lands. It is a simple matter of market forces. Oil is profitable, right now, and natural gas is not because of a glut in supply.
These industries depend on there being protected rivers, lakes and landscapes to draw tourists and enthusiasts here. That is why the White House needs to adopt an equal ground approach to land use, protecting an acre of ground for every acre offered for drilling or fracking. President George H.W. Bush had a one-to-one ratio and President Barack Obama needs to do the same.
The president and his Interior secretary have before them a golden opportunity to improve the way our nation approaches public land use. Jewell has the knowledge and experience to recognize that opportunity, and her testimony during her Senate confirmation hearing indicates she is aware of it.
It is time for America, and particularly the West, to return to a balanced land-use policy, one that benefits all types of businesses. And those of us who have invested in the incredible landscapes of the rural American West are standing by to help.
Kirstin Peterson operates a mountain bike touring company in Moab.