Thursday, June 02, 2016

Jewell’s all hands, all lands vision draws strength from Interior employees

Tell Interior Secretary Sally Jewell public land is controlled by top-down edicts from Washington, and she will push back immediately.

“I don’t think that’s accurate,” Jewell says.

“I would say that I’ve not been witness to a situation where we’ve had a thoughtful discussion about where something needs to go and then someone in Washington makes an arbitrary decision to change it. That’s a dialogue people like to talk about but I don’t think is accurate,” she said in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.

But whether it’s getting 173 million acres of sagebrush habitat sufficiently protected from development to keep sage grouse off the federal endangered species list, or siting a high-power transmission line through Southern Idaho, she’s ready to stand up even if it’s unpopular.

“There has to be voices who speak up for benefit of the intangible value of the landscape, and that’s part of what we do,” Jewell said.

As Jewell enters the final eight months of her tenure as Obama’s Interior secretary, she’s taking on a more forceful role as defender of the federal government’s place in the West and the value of federal employees in their work and their communities.

Jewell seeks to counter the perception that led Utah and other Western states to promote the idea of transferring federal lands to the states. Anti-federal rhetoric hit its peak earlier this year when a band of militia led by Emmett’s Ammon Bundy occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon for 41 days.

Jewell calls her collaborative vision “all hands, all lands.” The idea is that wildlife depend not only on public land but private and state lands and that states have the lead role in managing wildlife. It has guided her effort to develop a sage grouse plan across 11 Western states, including Idaho, where oil and gas drilling, renewable energy development, livestock grazing and population growth all take place on much the same landscape.

Instead of drawing lines on a map with zones that dictate different uses, Jewell has sought to look at the landscape like the wildlife that uses it — without paying attention to lines or artificial barriers.

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