"I have a great job at REI today, but there's no role that compares to the call to serve my country as secretary of the Department of Interior," she said.
Jewell was born in England but moved to the Seattle area before age 4. She has led Kent, Wash.-based REI since 2005. She served as chief operating officer for five years before taking the top job and worked for nearly two decades in commercial banking before that. She also has worked as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp.
Jewell emerged as a frontrunner for the Interior post in recent days, edging out better-known Democrats such as former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. The Interior job traditionally has gone to politicians from Western states. Salazar was a Colorado senator before taking over at Interior in 2009.
Jewell donated $5,000 to Obama's re-election effort and has supported other Democrats, campaign finance records show.
Jewell is the first woman Obama has nominated for his second-term Cabinet and a prominent representative from the business community, addressing two criticisms Obama has faced.
While relatively unknown in political circles, Jewell is no stranger to the White House. In 2011, she introduced Obama at a White House conference on the "America's Great Outdoors" initiative, noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs. She also appeared at a 2009 White House event on health care.
Jewell, who won the Audubon Society's 2009 Rachel Carson Award for Environmental Conservation, was hailed by environmental and business groups alike.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called her a champion in the effort to connect children with nature and said she has "a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans â¿¿ recreation, adventure, and enjoyment."
Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents the oil and natural gas industry, said Jewell's experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader "will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation's energy portfolio."