Wishing Jewell well

Sally Jewell has taken up her post as the nation’s 51st secretary of the Interior, moving into the job with Senate confirmation on Ken Salazar’s retirement.

    We wish Jewell well as she negotiates the straits separating those who derive a living from the nation’s public lands, most of which lie west of the Continental Divide, and conservation groups trying to preserve those lands untrammeled.

We invite Secretary Jewell to visit Mesa County, perhaps the area of the nation most directly affected by Interior Department policies, to see the economic engine of extraction, tourism, agriculture and hunting at work.

We’d be thrilled to show Jewell around this corner of her new office.

Jewell’s background suggests she is uniquely qualified to deal with both sides of the West’s public-lands questions.

As a petroleum engineer, Jewell has worked on wells that were hydraulically fractured, giving her credibility on the energy production side of the debate, though we note that similar real-world experience has yet to insulate Gov. John Hickenlooper, a geologist by training, from criticism that he just doesn’t get it about fracking, especially from Boulder County critics.

Most recently, though, Jewell has been the chief executive of REI, the outdoor-equipment retailer whose political activities in western states such as neighboring Utah gave heart to many environmental activists and heartburn to the GOP political establishment there.

Not everyone will always agree with Jewell, but we believe her experience gives her credibility with both sides and the chance for each side to be better understood by the government executive who is most responsible to them and for the lands on which they work and play.

And to that end we hope to hear Jewell weigh in on the Colorado state line, as well. Perhaps she can soothe the fears of North Fork farmers and fruitgrowers frightened by the prospect of drilling nearby. The energy industry, meanwhile, could use some assurances that it can operate where it has met appropriate conditions.

One of the first hints on how Jewell intends to manage federal lands will be the nomination to head the Bureau of Land Management.

That post has been filled on an interim basis for about a year now, and we hope Jewell moves expeditiously to appoint a permanent head of the agency that controls so much land in western Colorado.

We hope as well that Jewell is able to bring together the case for redesignating Colorado National Monument as a national park. We have long advocated for just such a step, and now the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association has agreed and supported park designation under certain conditions.

While Jewell has no direct say in the matter — it’s up to Congress — she can signal her willingness to work with the conditions outlined by the oil and gas association, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and many other organizations.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has pledged to work the Grand Junction community and he’s stuck to his word, cooperating both with supporters and opponents and working with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, in whose district the monument is situated.

With organizations and officials lining up behind a national park, a well-timed nudge by Jewell, who oversees the National Park Service among her many duties, could bring sides together and get Colorado National Monument’s redesignation moving forward in Congress.

That alone would be a giant step, and we hope Jewell lists it among her many priorities as she takes over her duties overseeing the nation’s treasure trove of mineral wealth and remarkable landscapes in service to the people who depend on them.


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