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Alaska delegation responds to Obama pick

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:21 am

FAIRBANKS — Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation offered restrained statements Wednesday about President Obama’s nomination of the head of a national outdoors equipment retailer to be his interior secretary.

Obama announced the selection of Sally Jewell, chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc. — better known by the shortened REI — in Washington.

“So many of the decisions made by the interior secretary have a profound impact on Alaska, and other Western states,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “The livelihoods of Americans living and working in the West rely on maintaining a real balance between conservation and economic opportunity.

“I look 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 Interior Department.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich didn’t offer an immediate endorsement of the Democratic president’s pick.

“While I am pleased the president moved quickly to fill this critical post, I think there is more we need to learn about Sally Jewell and what this decision means for Alaska,” Begich said. “The Department of Interior has enormous influence over Alaska’s land, resources and its relationship with our state’s First Peoples.”

Begich said he hopes to meet with Jewell “about our state’s vast energy resources and other issues as part of my continuing efforts to push the administration to understand Alaska and our unique needs.”

A spokesman for Republican Rep. Don Young said the congressman hoped Jewell could bring some balance to the Interior Department, noting, however that the Constitution does not give the lower chamber of Congress a role in the confirmation of Cabinet members.

“With 60 percent of Alaska under the federal government’s authority, the secretary of interior plays an important role in Alaska’s growth and development,” said Young’s spokesman, Mike Anderson. “And Congressman Young hopes that if confirmed, Ms. Jewell can balance responsible resource development and conservation efforts in an effective manner.”

Contact the newsroom at 459-7572.

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