In an address at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C., Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed the need for what she characterized as a "major course correction" in conservation. Despite her location at the nation's capital, the majority of her comments were about places thousands of miles away.
Jewell talked about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and criticized the desire for states to take over control of public lands.
“The movement has propped up dangerous voices that reject the rule of law," said Jewell, "put communities and hard-working public servants at risk and fail to appreciate how deeply Democratic and American our national parks and public lands are.”
Jewell discussed an issue that’s become a priority during her tenure: getting younger and more diverse people interested in national parks. Instead of fighting against technology, the secretary called on creating ways for Millennials to get engaged with nature through technology.
She talked up an initiative to get every fourth grader to visit a national park, launched in advance of this year’s National Park Service centennial.
“We also need to ensure that when a diverse class of fourth graders does visit, they see a park ranger who looks like them or talk to a wildlife biologist [who] shares their background. Or sees signs in their first language.”
Before being appointed to her cabinet position in President Obama's administration in 2013, Jewell was the CEO of outdoor retailing giant REI. During her speech, she talked about the economic benefits of the National Park Service, especially in gateway communities like Driggs, Idaho. She announced a multi-year study to understand the value of the outdoor sector on the economy.
Jewell also announced plans to visit western states in the coming months, including a stop in Idaho to discuss the sagebrush ecosystem in the face of larger and more dangerous wildfires.
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