12 Things Secretary Jewell Wants All Outdoor Businesses To Know

We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a better overall view of outdoor recreation and the industry that it fuels than Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. That’s why we recently took the opportunity to pick her brain and seek her insights.

By Hudson Lindenberger November 10, 2015

Sally Jewell gets it. The longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest grew up in the woods and understand the outdoor industry. After graduating from the University of Washington, she worked in the oil and banking industries before joining REI in 2000 as chief operating officer. In 2005 she became the CEO, a post she held until she was nominated by President Obama in 2013 to become the 51st Secretary of the Interior (she is only the second woman to hold the post).

In this series, we present Jewell’s views on a dozen key issues of national and international importance, from the very broad Land and Water Conservation Fund to the awfully granular Klamath River Reclamation Project and everything in between.

To begin…

Issue 1: Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Issue 2: Millennials in the Outdoors
Issue 3: Local Recreation Advisors
Issue 4: The Klamath River Reclamation Project
Issue 5: Shell Oil and Offshore Drilling
Issue 6: Water Policy and Climate Change
Issue 7: The Rise of SUP and the Next Big Thing
Issue 8: Recreation as a Resource
Issue 9: Outdoor Activism
Issue 10: What OIA Doesn’t Know About Sally Jewell’s Work


Issue 1: Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

OIA: Secretary Jewell, you were a big proponent and advocate throughout the debate process. Can you talk about the environmental standards that the TPP establishes and why those are a good thing not only for the U.S., but for the entire world in the grip of drastic global climate change?

Sally Jewell: I’m proud to serve for President Obama, who is committed to opening up new markets to U.S. exports and making sure that countries adhere to fair labor standards and environmental rules. TPA includes tough new rules that make upholding environmental laws and commitments fully enforceable in our trade agreements, just like other commercial obligations. These agreements will be important tools to help move our trading partners toward more sustainable development that will protect precious natural resources and combat illegal logging, fishing and wildlife trafficking. This includes pursuing commitments in TPP and future trade agreements to help conserve species at risk, such as rhinos, elephants and pangolins; conserving specially protected natural areas and forests; and combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

*The Obama administration released the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement to the public last week. The action comes a month after the U.S. and its 11 TPP partners concluded negotiations and began a “legal scrub” of the final details.

Issue 2: Millennials in the Outdoors 

OIA: What impacts have you noticed from the Millennial generation’s involvement in and relationship to the outdoors? They are using social media to achieve changes that were previously unheard of.

Sally Jewell: Younger generations are growing up busier, more tech-savvy and more disconnected from nature than ever before, with more than 80 percent living in cities. However, research also shows that Millennials care about the environment and want to effect positive change.

Fostering a deep sense of connection to the natural world in today’s youth is critical to ensure support of these special places.

    • The Department of the Interior connects with Millennials on social media through inspiring images and stories on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Vine and other emerging platforms.
  • Obama administration initiatives like the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, supported by federal agencies and corporate donations, provide service and work opportunities to tens of thousands of young people, giving them a connection to the outdoors that will stay with them forever.
  • The new Every Kid in a Park program, which gives all fourth graders and their families a free pass to public lands, ensures that schools and families from all parts of the country feel welcome on public lands.
  • And, the First Lady’s Lets Move! Outside program is getting a big boost in 50 cities across the country thanks to pioneering partnerships with city governments, federal land managers, American Express and the YMCA.
  • The National Park Service is using social media and traditional outreach to connect directly with Millennials as it gears up for its Centennial in 2016 through the Find Your Park

Millennials who have found a connection to public lands express a strong desire to continue their connection and advocacy, something that will be critically needed if we are to protect and enhance these places for future generations.

Issue 3: Local Recreation Advisors

OIA: The states of Washington, Utah and Colorado recently appointed recreation advisors/directors. Why are those appointments important? Do you think more states will/should do the same in order to bring recreation issues back to the table in earnest? In your opinion, which states would stand to benefit most from such appointments?

Sally Jewell: It takes a concerted, collaborative effort at all levels of government, alongside non-profit organizations, individuals and businesses, to highlight the importance of recreation and land conservation, not just to people’s health and spirits but as an economic driver sustaining nearby communities and supporting livability. Appointing recreation advisors affirms states’ commitments to bringing recreation to the forefront as a priority, on a more equal footing with development. All states could benefit from recreation directors who work proactively to engage communities, ensuring that important places for recreation are identified, protected and effectively serve their communities and visitors.

Read: A Rising Tide for Outdoor Recreation

Issue 4: The Klamath River Reclamation Project

OIA: The Klamath River Reclamation Project has been in front of Congress for seven years. Do you think President Obama might get involved during his last term? If so, how? If not, then what?

Sally Jewell: While I can’t comment on future presidential involvement in this issue, I can reassure you that the Klamath remains a priority for the Obama administration. The Klamath Agreements collectively provide a framework to preserve the economy and sustain the communities of the basin through restoration of the fishery resources, while also maintaining the future of irrigated agriculture.

Although full implementation of the Klamath Agreements is contingent upon congressional authorization, Department of Interior has been working to implement those portions of the agreements already authorized under existing law. We continue to believe the Klamath Agreements represent the best path toward a sustainable future, as they comprehensively address all of the significant issues facing the basin including water supply, water rights, fisheries resources, power supply, and tribal rights. We continue to work with stakeholders and members of Congress on legislation to fully authorize the Klamath Agreements.

Issue 5: Shell Oil and Offshore Drilling

OIA: Shell Oil has encountered fierce opposition to its planned off-shore drilling platforms in the Arctic. Is this the birth of the next environmental battleground?

Sally Jewell: Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, along with the Coast Guard and industry leaders, applied lessons learned and tough safety standards to Shell’s exploratory drilling program, which was part of the Obama administration’s comprehensive approach to strengthening our domestic energy production in a safe and responsible way. While Shell was engaged in the Arctic, careful analysis of its plans, alongside strict regulations and continuous monitoring, helped to ensure the benefits and costs of offshore Alaska drilling were thoughtfully balanced.

We recognize the sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems and the importance of the Arctic environment to Alaska natives, who remain intimately connected to the Arctic Ocean for subsistence and tribal traditions. The administration is currently in the process of analyzing public input to the next five-year offshore leasing program, which will cover the years 2017 to 2022. This open, public process will guide the future of leasing activity, taking into account all points of view.

Issue 6: Water Policy and Climate Change

OIA: As fresh water becomes more of a battleground (climate change, extended droughts) what things can OIA members do to help? 

Sally Jewell: OIA members can help spread awareness of the serious nature of climate change and the drought and how both underscore the need for the President’s Climate Action Plan and water conservation programs (like Interior’s WaterSmart program), which helps resource managers make wise decisions about water use.

OIA members can also participate in local watershed groups that are working to reduce conflicts over water through collaborative conservation efforts. Partnering with federal, state and local agencies on local community water conservation is another option, illustrated by the Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) on the lower Colorado River. This program was created to balance the use of the Colorado River water resources with the conservation of native species and their habitats.

Finally, everyone can benefit from drought awareness and response. Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation’s new Drought Response Program supports a proactive approach toward drought mitigation, where communities can implement a drought contingency plan and drought resiliency projects to help stretch water supplies with the aim of minimizing impacts on rivers, recreational facilities and communities.

Issue 7: The Rise of SUP and the Next Big Thing


OIA: Stand-up paddleboarding is the current hot new outdoor activity. What do you see on the horizon as the next big craze?

SALLY JEWELL: The extensive and real-time coverage of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s climb of Dawn Wall in Yosemite captivated the nation, particularly young people. This is a great illustration of the power of social media to inspire people to try a new activity. Earlier this year, Caldwell came to DC and introduced fourth graders to climbing along the Potomac River in Maryland in support of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative. They were very excited and will likely add rock climbing to their list of fun activities to try again. While I’m not as tuned in to emerging activities in this job as I was in my last position, I encourage OIA members to use exciting social media images and stories to connect with young people, whether to new or traditional activities.

Issue 8: Recreation as a Resource

 OIA: Utah’s Director of Outdoor Recreation recently wrote an op-ed piece in which he called recreation one of Utah’s few renewable resources. Do you agree and do you think that’s true for other states? What is your definition of sustainable resource?

SALLY JEWELL: I agree, and it’s important that OIA members get the word out to elected officials at every level that outdoor recreation is an important contributor to local economies. The OIA’s Recreation Economy report is an important tool that quantifies the economic impact of outdoor recreation on a state-by-state basis. At Interior, we consider ourselves in the “forever” business—preserving our magnificent lands and waters for generations to come. This means thoughtful, long-term stewardship of public lands that range from untrammeled wilderness to areas of more extensive use. Through the continued dedication of hardworking staff and volunteers, as well as through funding and foresight of community members and elected officials, our team works to strike a thoughtful balance between preservation and development so we leave our land, water and wildlife intact for future generations.

Listen to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden talk about his state’s outdoor recreation economy.

Issue 9: Outdoor Activism

OIA: More companies are getting involved in outdoor activism, what suggestions do you have for them? Who, in your opinion, is doing a great job?

SALLY JEWELL: Many companies are recognizing the importance of investing in our youth and environment. Several of our partners recognize the disconnect between young people and the great outdoors and are working with us to promote increased awareness of and connection to nature.

  • Interior recently announced a grant from American Express that funds AmeriCorps positions in cities across the country, creating job opportunities to serve on public lands in partnership with local YMCAs.
  • American Eagle Outfitters the partners with the Student Conservation Association, one of our youth corps partners, to help place youth in internships on public lands nationwide as part of Interior’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC).
  • The North Face recently announced the next phase of their partnership with the 21CSC, providing $25,000 each to four conservation corps organizations caring for public lands in their communities.
  • Camelbak and Coca Cola have supported youth and veteran conservation corps, while REI, Subaru and others have provided support for the National Park Centennial and stewardship on public lands.

These are all companies that understand and appreciate that investing in young people, building their connection to public lands while growing their confidence and skills, serves their businesses and communities in the long run. We welcome participation from additional companies in the outdoor industry that recognize their future depends on public lands and a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate these special places.

In addition, OIA and the Outdoor Foundation recently launched Parks4Kids, a program through which companies and individuals can crowdfund schools and youth programs in their local communities who want to take 4th graders to national parks and other public lands as part of the Every Kid in a Park program. Read more about it and join Sally Jewell and the companies named above in helping to get more kids into the outdoors.

Issue 10: What OIA Doesn’t Know About Sally Jewell’s Work

OIA: What are a few of your pet projects that the general public and the OIA membership might not be aware you’re working on? In addition to Browns Canyon and the other monuments we saw designated earlier this year, what areas would you like to see become Wilderness areas and National Parks in the next year and a half?

SALLY JEWELL: Interior is implementing ambitious initiatives to connect young people to our great outdoors, including First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside campaign. As part of Let’s Move! Outside, Interior is announcing funding for AmeriCorps positions in 50 cities nationwide, creating opportunities for youth to serve in urban parks and inspire them to become stewards of these special places. As part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, we are working toward recruiting one million volunteers annually—including youth and veterans—for conservation corps engagement on our public lands.

As the recent passage of a wilderness bill for the Boulder White Clouds area in Idaho shows, when local communities work together with their members of Congress and stay at the table to put together a locally driven vision for conservation of special lands, these kinds of legislative efforts can work. We continue to listen broadly to input on areas that warrant further protection.