WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated outdoor business executive Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department.
Obama said Jewell, president and chief executive at REI, has earned national recognition for her support of outdoor recreation and habitat conservation. He also noted her experience as an engineer in oil fields and her record of achievement and environmental stewardship at REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor use.
"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," Obama said at a White House ceremony.
President Barack Obama listens as his Interior Secretary nominee, REI Chief Executive Officer Sally Jewell speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday.
At REI, Jewell "has shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet," Obama said. Last year, REI donated nearly $4 million to protect trails and parks, and 20 percent of the electricity used in the company's stores comes from renewable sources.
Jewell, the first woman Obama has nominated for his Cabinet in his second term, would replace current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar if confirmed by the Senate. Salazar has held the post throughout Obama's first term. He announced last month that he would step down in March.
Jewell, 56, emerged as a frontrunner for the Interior post in recent days, edging out better-known Democrats such as former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. The Interior job traditionally has gone to politicians from Western states. Salazar was a Colorado senator before taking over at Interior in 2009.
Jewell donated $5,000 to Obama's re-election effort and has supported other Democrats, campaign finance records show.
The White House faced criticism that the new Cabinet lacked diversity after Obama tapped a string of white men for top posts, but Obama promised more diverse nominees were in the queue for other jobs.
Jewell's confirmation also would put a prominent representative from the business community in the president's Cabinet. REI is a $2 billion-a-year company and has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for.
Jewell was born in England, but moved to the Seattle area before age 4 and is a U.S. citizen.
In 2011, Jewell introduced Obama at a White House conference on the "America's Great Outdoors" initiative, noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs. She also appeared at a 2009 White House event on health care.
Under Salazar, the Interior Department pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The moratorium was lifted in October 2010, although offshore drilling operations did not begin for several more months.