WSJ's “Fringe” Attacks On Interior Nominee

Source: Still from C-Span

The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel is claiming that newly-minted Interior secretary nominee Sally Jewell is part of the “environmental fringe,” suggesting she is hostile to business and was chosen by President Obama to “kill traditional jobs.” In fact, she boasts a wealth of business experience, and her support of national parks conservation bolsters a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry that sustains millions of jobs.

Strassel dismissed Jewell as an “activist” who will “Lock up land, target industries, [and] kill traditional jobs,” which she exemplified as mining, logging and farming. Strassel pointed to REI as an example of a company “on the radical extreme” because it has supported rules such as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards National Forest lands from road construction and logging, and criticized the National Parks Conservation Association, on whose board Jewell serves, for its “efforts to kill jobs.” 

But Jewell's conservation efforts have helped support the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. According to a 2012 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, an industry trade group, Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending, or nearly twice as much as the pharmaceuticals industry. According to the group's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, outdoor recreation spending directly supports some 6.1 million jobs -- from retail jobs to park rangers to lodging operators -- nearly three times as many as the American Petroleum Institute claimed from the oil and gas industry in 2007:

Source: Outdoor Industry Association based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data

According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, recreation in National Forests and Grasslands alone contributes about $14.5 billion annually to the economy and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. The Roadless Area Conservation Rule covers about 30 percent of the National Forest System.

If Strassel does not consider these jobs “traditional” enough, she might heed the approval of the Western Energy Alliance, a coalition of oil and gas production companies and frequent critic of Obama, which praised the choice of Jewell, a former Mobil Oil engineer. Jewell has also served on the board of the Retail Leaders Industry Association, a retail industry trade group that released a statement applauding her nomination and support of industry.

Despite Strassel's characterization of Jewell as a “loyal ideologue” on the “environmental fringe,” she has reached across the aisle in the past. E&E News reports that she appeared with Sen. John McCain at an environmental forum when he was running for president in 2008. She did donate to President Obama's re-election effort -- but she has also donated to Republican members of Congress.