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Preservation Action, Legislative Update
Volume 16, Number 6 – February 8, 2013

President Nominates REI CEO as New Secretary of Interior

President Obama announced on Wednesday that he is nominating Sally Jewell, the CEO of outdoor equipment company REI, to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. Jewell, who will be the 2nd woman to serve in the position, was praised by the President as a, “strong and capable leader,” who, “knows the link between conservation and good jobs.”

A vocal supporter of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Jewell is also a vice-chair of the National Parks Conservation association and, in the beginning of her career, was a petroleum engineer. Jewell’s appointment has been met with mixed reaction. Bob Abbey, former director of the Bureau of Land Management, said that Jewell is, “a capable individual who enjoys the support of other business leaders within the recreation industry as well as with many environmental groups.”

Others, however, have speculated that the move may be designed to place more power over the department in the White House. Citing her experience in business rather than politics, critics are already expressing concern that she will be forced to rely on White House staff more than the current Secretary.

Preservation Action will continue to keep members updated as the nomination winds through the confirmation process.

Heritage Area Program Legislation Re-Introduced

Late last week, Representatives Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), co-chairs of the National Heritage Areas Caucus, introduced The National Heritage Area Act. The language, which is identical to the legislation they proposed in 2012, is aimed at reforming and strengthening the existing program by providing clear program objectives and metrics.

Currently, the nation’s heritage areas need to be individually authorized. This bill would create a consistent set of criteria for the existing areas and any that Congress names in the future. The bill would also require an expanded feasibility study that requires a local coordinating organization and local support for a heritage area prior to designation.

The bill currently has 7 co-sponsors and bipartisan support. Unfortunately, even though the National Park Service readily praises National Heritage Areas as a model for public/private partnerships, support from the Administration, particularly from the Office of Management and Budget, has been less than enthusiastic. For the past two years the Administration has proposed a 50% reduction in funding for National Heritage Areas citing the lack of the very program language proposed by H.R. 445.

Legislation has also been introduced that would designate two additional National Heritage Areas – one in Pennsylvania called the Susquehanna Gateway, introduced by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), and the other in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

 

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