February 6, 2013
AWC is Optimistic on Administration's Nomination for New Secretary of the Interior
Contacts: Les Corey, Arizona Wilderness Coalition/ 520-326-4300
Kate Mackay, Arizona Wilderness Coalition/ 602-571-2603
PHOENIX—Arizona’s leading wilderness advocacy group is optimistic about the Obama Adminstration’s announcement today to nominate Sally Jewell, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI™) CEO, to the position of Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI). The Arizona Wilderness Coalition, formed by citizen volunteers in 1979, has worked for more than 30 years to create new wilderness and take care of wild lands and waters on Arizona’s federal public lands.
“Since our inception, AWC has taken powerful steps to reconnect Arizonans with wild places and cultivate a sense of stewardship for our public lands,” says Kate Mackay, deputy director of the Coalition in their Phoenix office. “Should Ms. Jewell be confirmed, we look forward to partnering with federal agencies in Arizona to empower volunteers to take care of their wilderness lands and build the next generation of public lands advocates.”
“In declining budget times, it’s more important than ever to embrace broader ways to engage the public in taking care of our public lands through volunteerism and public-private partnerships,” says Les Corey, AWC’s executive director based in Tucson.
The outdoor recreation industry, tourism, and public lands-related service sectors have grown exponentially in the last 30 years. Recent research by Headwaters Economics found that communities and counties with protected federal public lands generally outperform those without public lands in economic performance measures. Western non-metropolitan counties with more than 30 percent of the county’s land base in federal protected status such as national parks, monuments, wilderness, and other similar designations increased jobs by 345 percent over the last 40 years. By comparison, similar counties with no protected federal public lands increased employment by 83 percent. In 2010, per capita income in western non-metropolitan counties with 100,000 acres of protected public lands is on average $4,360 higher than per capita income in similar counties with no protected public lands.
Wilderness designations for federal lands—created under the Wilderness Act of 1964—represent the highest level of protection for national forests, parks, refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Arizona has 90 wilderness areas created under the 1964 law and two successive laws in 1984 and 1990.
“Wilderness and other protected public lands provide infinite opportunities for economic growth in the communities that choose to safeguard their natural landscapes, wildlife, and open spaces,” says Corey. “DOI has a chance here to build on that new trend and proactively invest in healthy public lands for the American people. Miss Jewell’s background in the West, coupled with her knowledge of the demands on public lands today, makes her a solid choice for Interior Secretary.”
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s mission is to permanently protect and restore wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all citizens and to ensure that Arizona's native plants and animals have a lasting home in wild nature. www.azwild.org