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President Obama has nominated outdoor sports company executive Sally Jewell to replace Ken Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

President Obama’s unconventional pick to lead the Interior Department — a former oil engineer and commercial banker who heads the consumer co-op Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) — represents an effort by the administration to defuse the partisan fight over conservation and energy.

Many environmentalists and oil and gas industry officials greeted her nomination with cautious optimism, the Washington Post reports, saying she could reconnect Americans to their outdoors heritage without stifling drilling and mining operations on land and off shore.

Introducing her at the White House, Obama emphasized that Jewell “has spent the majority of her career outside of Washington, where, I might add, the majority of our interior is located.”

She has proven, he added, that one can reconcile economic growth and environmental protection.

“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” Obama said. “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 in hand.”

Obama touted his nominee’s experience working for Mobil Oil in the late 1970s and the early ’80s, noting that Jewell was a University of Washington undergraduate studying to be a dentist when she “realized her boyfriend’s homework was more interesting than hers, and she decided to become an engineer” and “went on to work in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Colorado.”

Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, told the Washington Post he hoped that time in the fields would translate into expanded oil and gas drilling on federal lands. “We hope to see a better balance of productive development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands that enhances the wealth of America and creates jobs while protecting the environment,” he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she “looked forward to hearing about the qualifications Ms. Jewell has that make her a suitable candidate to run such an important agency and how she plans to restore balance to the department.”

Jewell now faces confirmation before the Senate, which has not yet set a date for hearings.

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