Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Interior Sec. Jewell: ‘Not thankless, but controversial’

In a sit-down afterwards with seattlepi.com, the former Seattle executive and outdoors activist spoke of a job she described as “not thankless, but controversial.” On Thursday, she’ll be out listening to Alaska villagers in the remote Aleutian Island hamlets of King Cove and Cold Bay, refereeing a dispute that has reached the shores of Congress. The Cold Bay villagers want to run a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge that would give quick access to an airport for medical emergencies. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, support the road. Conservation groups oppose it. An Interior Department environmental analysis has recommended against the road. The decision, punted by her predecessor Ken Salazar, falls in Jewell’s lap. She’ll have other similar decisions. The Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives has become a burial ground for conservation and preservation bills. Congress has not added one acre of parkland or wilderness since 2010. With Congress paralyzed, the Obama administration gets calls to use the President’s authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act and designate national monuments. It’s what Obama did earlier this year when even the non-controversial San Juans bill bogged down in the House. “I suspect the opportunities will present themselves,” Jewell said. “As often happens, they may or may not find success in Congress, and people approach the President at that point.” In Idaho, advocates in Congress have spent years seeking more protection for the White Cloud Mountains — one of the great beauty spots of the American West — only to be thwarted. Ex-Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, a former Idaho government, wants Obama to designate a monument. The rock faces of Castle Peak are also tricky political ground. A pair of Republicans, Sen. Jim Risch and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson have worked the issue, to no avail. Simpson is facing a Tea Party challenger in the 2014 Republican primary...more

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