Meeting with the woman nominated to run the U.S. Interior Department, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus pulled no punches when it came to time to advocate for Montana's land and water priorities.
The Senators pressed Sally Jewell, CEO of leading outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), about access to public lands, funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, investments in water infrastructure, and energy development.
Tester and Baucus say Jewell, who grew up in Washington state, has a strong understanding of the west's outdoor traditions, as well as the importance of public lands to rural America.
"Montana's outdoor traditions create jobs, power our economy, and support hundreds of Montana communities," said Tester, who recently hailed a new outdoor recreation report. "Sally and I discussed the need to preserve Montana's outdoor heritage while increasing access to public lands and responsibly developing our energy resources."
"Having folks in the cabinet who have been to Montana and understand our rural priorities is a huge advantage for our state. And as a businesswoman, Sally also understands how important our outdoor heritage is to supporting jobs and growing our economy. I look forward to working with Sally to protect Montanans' access to public land," said Baucus, who brought Jewell to Montana for his 2009 "Make Health Happen' Summit in Bozeman.
Tester and Baucus also spoke with Jewell about continuing investments in the Bureau of Reclamation's water projects, Montana's significant energy resources on federal lands, and a number of issues affecting Indian Country.
Tester, former Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, was the main sponsor of last year's Sportsmen's Act. He also reintroduced his bipartisan Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act in February.
Baucus recently reintroduced his legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at no additional cost to taxpayers, and Tester cosponsored the measure.
Jewell, who began her career as an oil engineer, spent nearly two decades in commercial banking before joining REI. She would replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has led the department since 2009.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold Jewell's confirmation hearing on Thursday.