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The Nature Conservancy Taps Obama Interior Secretary as Interim CEO

Former Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell
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U.S. Department of the Interior
Former Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell

The Nature Conservancy just appointed Obama’s former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as its new interim CEO.  The leadership change comes in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct at the organization. Several top executives were implicated and have stepped down, including the CEO and the President.

Aaron Weiss, with the Center For Western Priorities, is optimistic about Jewell taking the helm of the Nature Conservancy.

“You’d have trouble finding anyone more qualified,” he said, “with more first-hand knowledge of public lands and conservation issues in the West.”

Weiss said her track record is important because The Nature Conservancy owns or protects nearly 3 million acres across the Mountain West and has the ability to buy land for permanent conservation. He pointed to her pivotal role in establishing Bears Ears as a National Monument in Utah in 2016.

But Leland Pollock, a County Commissioner in Garfield County, Utah which is home to another large national monument, Grand Staircase Escalante, is not a fan of Jewell’s approach to public lands.

“I disagreed with almost every policy she had,” Pollock said, “because it was more of a wilderness-type lock-everything-up approach rather than the way public lands in the West should be managed. They should be managed for multiple use.”

The Nature Conservancy was not available for comment. But in a statement, Jewell said “I am humbled and pleased to step forward to support this important organization through its transition.”

Jewell is set to take up the interim CEO position in early September.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUER in Salt Lake City, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KRCC. To see more, visit KRCC.

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.