(Public News Service) SEATTLE - It's the first week on the job for new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The former REI president spent most of this week learning the ropes in Washington and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
But there are challenges facing the new secretary about public lands in the West.
Peter Dykstra, regional director of The Wilderness Society, says he's optimistic about the choice of Jewell because her past experience shows she understands the connection between conservation of America's public lands and a strong economy.
"Businesses move to communities that have places that people want to live," he says. "Public lands near urban areas provide the opportunities for great cultural experiences but also those great outdoors experiences."
And, he says, it's not just tourism jobs. Places like Seattle are booming tech centers, with jobs in computer, aerospace, electronics and other high-paying industries.
Dykstra adds the economic growth due to proximity to public lands also impacts small to medium-sized cities, such as Wenatchee.
"They have new, very different kinds of jobs coming into those cities because of the access to the outdoors and public lands," he says.
Bill Dvorak runs outfitting trips on the Arkansas River in Colorado. He says his business draws clients from Colorado, the West and even Europe.
"People might come down and do a day or an overnight trip on the river," he says. "And then we can take them mountain biking, or horseback riding, or teach them how to kayak or rock climb. There's a lot of other things that you can do in the area."
Jewell took over the post from Ken Salazar, who stepped down earlier this year.