Interior department nominee understands bicycling issues, says bike industry

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President Obama’s choice of  REI CEO Sally Jewell as his nomination for Secretary of the Interior should be good news for bicycling.

InteriorJewellIf approved by Congress, the top exec of the Kent, Washington-based company will head up the department that oversees the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. Bicycling issues — especially regarding mountain biking — often are sparked on those public lands.

Fortunately, Jewell seems to understand mountain biking.

International Mountain Bicycling Association president Mike Van Abel told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News that he worked with Jewell on America’s Great Outdoors and local chapters have worked with REI.

“Given REI’s stellar support of outdoor recreation stewardship and conservation organizations, I think Sally’s appointment will be a great opportunity to continue to shape favorable policies for recreation on public lands.

‘Our work with the BLM and NPS is already excellent and getting better. Sally’s appointment has the potential to take us even deeper as we won’t have to convince her of the conservation value of our work.”

Although REI’s business is selling outdoorsy recreational equipment, the company also supports those pursuits by its corporate largesse. REI gives grants to local bicycling programs through Bikes Belong. Recently, REI gave grants to bicycle projects in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.

Bikes Belong president Tim Blumenthal said:

“As the CEO of REI, she’s done an excellent job of blending and balancing recreation and conservation interests. She understands mountain biking, the importance of easy bike routes for people of all ages, and the value of the recreation tourism economy. Her experience and outlook should help improve bicycling on public land and this will benefit bicycling and the bike industry.”

Nationwide, 24 REI locations have earned Bicycle Friendly Business awards from the League of American Bicyclists. At the Kent headquarters, more than 120 employees participated in Bike to Work Day a couple of years ago.

Here in the Seattle area, Jewell is a past president and board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. She received the Greenway Hall of Fame award in November for her 21 years as an active member of the Trust.

In Seattle, the REI meeting room is often available for Cascade Bicycle Club events, such as the upcoming talk by bike traveler Willie Weir and Olympic cyclist Nelson Vails.

We’re hoping that Jewell’s background at REI helps when bicycling issues arise on public lands.

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