Obama picks outdoor retail exec to lead Interior

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's choice for Interior secretary is a lifelong outdoors enthusiast who likes to bike, ski and climb mountains.

As president and CEO at Recreational Equipment Inc., Sally Jewell has applied her passion to her job, helping push REI to nearly $2 billion in annual revenues and a place on Fortune magazine's list of "Best Places to Work." Now Obama hopes to take advantage of Jewell's love for the outdoors and her business sense as she takes over at Interior, the federal department responsible for national parks and other public lands.

In announcing the nomination, Obama said Jewell has earned national recognition for her environmental stewardship at REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor enthusiasts. He also noted her experience as an engineer in oil fields and her fondness for mountain climbing.

The toughest part of Jewell's new job "will probably be sitting behind a desk," Obama said.

At a White House ceremony yesterday, Obama said Jewell "knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress -- that, in fact, those two things need to go hand and hand."

At REI, Jewell "has shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet," Obama said.

Last year, REI donated nearly $4 million to protect trails and parks, and 20 percent of the electricity used in the company's stores comes from renewable sources.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell, 56, would replace Secretary Ken Salazar, who is to step down in March. "I have a great job at REI today, but there's no role that compares to the call to serve my country as secretary of the Department of Interior," Jewell said.

Born in England, Jewell moved to the Seattle area before age 4. She has led Kent, Wash.-based REI since 2005.

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