Nominee Jewell promises to bring 'balance' to public land use

Published: Thursday, March 7 2013 2:45 p.m. MST

Barrasso said the group has sued the federal government 59 times and "uses taxpayer dollars to fund lawsuits that put people out of work."

The senator wanted to know if Jewell would recuse herself from agency decisions that involve lawsuits or settlements with the NPCA.

Jewell stressed that she serves as one of 30 board members and has nothing to do with the group's litigation strategy, and said she will, if confirmed as Interior secretary, consult with "ethics professionals" on any issues related to NPCA.

Throughout the hearing, Jewell was praised by several committees for her blended background in the oil industry and her work as a conservationist, with some expressing hope that she will use her experiences as a corporate chief executive officer to inject more efficiency and expediency into the federal agency's operations.

She didn't flinch, too, when she was asked point blank her view on the politically charged topic of global warming.

"The scientific evidence is clear. There is no question in my mind it is real, and the scientific evidence is there to back it up," Jewell said.

Early in the hearing, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, warned Jewell that she would have to convince the committee that she would maintain "balance" in the use of public lands should she become the next Interior secretary.

"We all have our own King Cove, and we all have our own examples of how misguided federal restrictions are making it harder for people to live, be safe and prosper," Murkowski said, referencing a federal decision to disapprove the construction of a 10-mile road to a rural Alaskan airport for emergency medical evacuations. "(The agency) too often ignores its mission to honor multiple uses of public lands. … We need you to affirm that public lands are not just playgrounds."

Jewell said having a balanced approach is key to managing public lands.

"I don't think it is an ‘either or.' I really think it is an ‘and.' I have had that kind of balanced perspective in my career and would bring it to the role," she said.

After the hearing, Lee said he appreciated Jewell's responses to his questions.

"Land management issues are critical to Utah's economy," he said. "I want to ensure we have a willing partner at Interior who will work with us and sees Utah's interests as also being in the national interest."

The committee did not take a vote Thursday on Jewell's nomination. It will review her testimony and response to written questions before making a decision, which will likely happen this month, before Salazar steps down.

E-mail: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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