Sally Jewell was confirmed in a Senate vote of 87 to 11 on April 10 and sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Interior on April 12, 2013, by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She will be overseeing an estimated $11.9 billion budget (as proposed by the President’s FY14 request), over 70,000 employees, and a department which is estimated to contribute $385 billion to the nation’s economy and support 2.4 million American jobs.
The Senate confirmation vote occurred after Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) lifted a hold he placed on her nomination, upon receiving written assurance from former DOI Secretary Ken Salazar that the DOI would support using the best science in a collaborative way in the recovery of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). This is the second last minute agreement the former secretary had to make for the confirmation of his successor to proceed, the first being the agreement to revisit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision on the emergency road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
The greater sage-grouse was added in 2010 as a candidate species for the endangered species list. Although listing was warranted it was precluded based on “the need to take action on other species facing more immediate and severe extinction threats.” The FWS must decide whether to list the greater sage-grouse by 2015.
The conservation management of the greater sage-grouse encompasses many of the management challenges Jewell will immediately face. The greater sage-grouse’s primary threats — habitat loss and fragmentation from wildfire, energy development, and invasive species — along with competition for grazing permits have necessitated complex management regimes. While much of Jewell’s confirmation questioning focused on the same balancing act of conservation and energy development, recent budget committee hearings have focused on departmental needs for wildfire management and mitigation.
Several DOI agencies (FWS, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management) share oversight of the greater sage-grouse and its habitat with other federal agencies (Natural Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service), states, tribes, and local and private entities. FWS recently released a report to help guide greater sage-grouse conservation actions by these entities with regards to permitting or land management authority information. For more information on the organization of management players see “Who’s on the Lek.”
Sources: Beginner’s Guide to the Greater Sage-Grouse (FWS 2010), CBS: Senate Confirms Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary (April 10, 2013), DOI page: About Secretary Jewell, DOI News Release: President Proposes $11.9 Billion Budget for Interior (April 10, 2013), DOI News Release: Sally Jewell gets to work as Secretary of the Interior (April 15, 2013), Roll Call: Interior Pick Moves Forward After Sage-Grouse Dispute (April 10, 2013), The Wildlife Society’s Comments on FS/BLM EIS of the Greater Sage-Grouse (Feb. 7, 2013), The Wildlife News: Governor Letter to Brian Kelley (3/14/2013), USFWS News Release: Report to Help Guide Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Objectives (March 25, 2013), USFWS Endangered Species: Greater Sage-Grouse.
Previous TWS articles: Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor Retailer REI nominated for Interior Secretary, Policy News Update – Sally Jewell Confirmation Hearing, Policy News Update – Sally Jewell Passes First Hurdle.