This Thursday, I will be attending what is being billed as Interior Sec. Sally Jewell’s first major speech on land conservation issues at the National Press Club. The speech comes just after the anniversary of her first six months on the job earlier this October.
So what are my thoughts about Sally Jewell’s first six months? To me her list of accomplishments look pretty empty which in itself is discouraging. We don’t know a number of things. We don’t know what the secretary’s agenda is. We don’t know what her vision is. We don’t know what her strategic thinking is. We don’t know what she wants to accomplish in her short tenure in the second term of an outgoing administration. We don’t know who Sally Jewell is. We do know that she has been busy visiting national parks, attending ribbon cutting events, hanging out with volunteers and generally looking engaged and interested. All this isn’t meant to be critical of Sally Jewell, but my observation is that so far we have really only seen symbolic gestures. There has been very little, if any, concrete actions.
In terms of specifics, as far as I can tell, she has taken little personal interest solving controversial oil and gas leasing proposals on BLM lands which could harm our national parks and the cultural, historical, and ecological values of the surrounding landscape. She hasn’t weighed in on the controversy of leasing oil and gas parcels near the boundary of park areas like Dinosaur, Mesa Verde, or Chaco Culture. She hasn’t provided any direction or instruction or compelled the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to follow their own guidelines, like the reforms developed in the wake of the Bush administration oil and gas debacle around Moab, Utah in 2008. President Bush’s BLM had proposed 77 leases near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, including drill rigs which would have been framed by Delicate Arch.
In short, I just haven’t seen anything substantial to have a sense of what she wants to do. And that’s in contrast to her predecessor. Not that Interior Sec. Salazar was a paragon of conservation either, but he was willing to make tough decisions such as when he scrapped the 77 leases which would have ruined Arches National Park only a few short weeks after he took office. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court saw the wisdom in Interior Department having the ability to make smarter public lands decisions and upheld Sec. Salazar’s actions.
Sally Jewell has been in office six months and has yet to make her presence felt, especially in the issue of balance between conservation and energy development on public lands.
Maybe after Secretary Jewell’s speech on Thursday we will have a better idea of what she wants to accomplish as the nation’s chief steward of our public lands. That would be a good start. We’re hoping her agenda includes a commitment to balancing conservation and recreation values with energy development. And we hope she will push that agenda with concrete actions. I’ll share my reaction after the speech. Sec. Jewell has a real opportunity to protect our public lands by ensuring responsible, balanced energy development. I’m hoping she makes the most of this opportunity.
– Ellis Richard, Park Rangers for Our Lands
Listen to the story about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold then-Sec. Ken Salazar’s decision to cancel oil and gas leasing near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.