Nature Conservancy taps Obama Interior secretary as interim CEO
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was named The Nature Conservancy’s interim CEO as it searches for new leadership amid the fallout of a sexual harassment and workplace misconduct investigation.
The ex-Obama administration official is currently on the environmental organization’s board of directors. She takes over during a period of turmoil for the group that’s been a friend to Capitol Hill, corporate America and national governments.
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Jewell, who will take over Sept. 3, said she was “humbled” by the opportunity.
“The Nature Conservancy is unique in its global reach, effective through its vast network of local chapters, dedicated trustees and on-the-ground relationships, and creative in its engagement with the business and global finance communities,” she said in a statement. “Our strength has always been in our people, and we recognize this comes with great responsibility to provide this team a supportive, open and inclusive work environment so everyone can thrive.”
Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek announced Friday that he would resign. That news came one week after Tercek asked for then-president Brian McPeek’s resignation, coming just days after POLITICO reported on the findings of the internal probe by law firm McDermott Will & Emery. That report found women at The Nature Conservancy found it difficult to succeed and that those accused of misbehavior or harassment were often believed over the accuser.
The Nature Conservancy also announced Frances Ulmer, current chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, would be the new chairman of the board in November.
In Jewell, The Nature Conservancy adds someone with political experience in addition to the private sector executive chops that have come to define its blend of free-market conservation approaches and partnerships with multinational corporations. Jewell is the former CEO of outdoor gear giant REI and also worked as an engineer at Exxon Mobil.
Jewell entered the Obama administration during its second term with broad bipartisan support, clearing the Senate with an 87-11 vote. Her efforts to tighten climate change regulations drew a partisan divide, with Democrats and environmentalists supporting the measures while Republicans and the energy industry contended she was restricting energy growth. President Donald Trump has sought to undo many of those policies in an effort to expand U.S. energy production.
At Interior, Jewell rolled out tougher rules for fracking on public lands, including stricter limits for emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. She also was a chief advocate for expanding national monuments that kept swaths of land off limits to energy extraction, positioning it as a public health winner and economic driver for small, tourism-dependent towns. She also pushed to redo how royalties for mining coal on federal land were calculated.