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Interior Pick Puts Outdoor Industry In Spotlight

Jewell is inspirational, "mission-driven" and a consensus builder who nearly doubled REI's revenues to $1.8 billion since joining REI in 2000 and will raise the profile of the industry, said company chairman John Hamlin, managing partner of the private-equity firm Bozeman Limited Partnership.

Among the issues Jewell will need to navigate is the collision between a record-setting energy boom â¿¿ which has led to sharply increased drilling over the past decade â¿¿ and the desire of western communities to lure tourists and information-age workers who want to be able to play outdoors, using the gear the industry makes.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, said she's baffled at the hostility to energy exploration among the outdoor recreation industry.

"They're not transporting their products via windmills," she said. "Their customers wouldn't be able to use all that gear in the mountains without driving in their cars."

Bishop complained that REI has pushed for America's Redrock Wilderness Act, a bill that has languished in Congress for years without action because of the Utah delegation's opposition. It also helped fund nonprofits who sued to stop the Bush administration's award of 77 oil and gas leases on Utah land in 2008. He scoffed at those who argue that the West can prosper from the recreation economy.

"Recreation is a great element but it's only one of the elements you need," Bishop said. "It is extremely volatile. You need a good industrial sector. You need a good manufacturing sector. You need a good mining sector."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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