Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will lead the American delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue this year, scheduled for September 6th in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. As in the prior several years, the delegation will include senior officials from the White House, U.S. Coast Guard, USAID, our Pacific territories, and the Departments of State, Energy, Defense, Interior, and Health and Human Services.
While at the PIF, Secretary Jewell will address a wide range of issues with Pacific Island leaders, including global climate change, natural resource management, sustainable development, economic growth, and maritime and regional security. Her participation, coming after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attendance last year in Rarotonga, highlights and builds upon America’s historic relations with our sister peoples and nations of the Pacific.
Secretary Jewell is America’s 51st Secretary of the Interior. Prior to her confirmation to that position she served in the private sector, most recently as President and CEO of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI). A graduate of the University of Washington , she is a petroleum engineer by training. In nominating her, President Obama stated, “She is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future… She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.”
With more than 70,000 employees, the Department of the Interior serves as steward for more than 20 percent of the land in the United States, including our national parks and national wildlife refuges. It also oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters, is the largest supplier and manager of water in our 17 Western states, and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
The Department of the Interior also has administrative responsibility for coordinating federal policy in the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as oversight of federal programs and funds in the Freely Associated States of the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Secretary is thus an excellent choice to lead our delegation this year.
Although I have made it a point to attend each of the prior three PIFs – in Port Villa, Auckland, and Rarotonga – the press of Embassy business in Wellington and Apia will unfortunately prevent me from traveling to Majuro this year. Our two Future Leaders of the Pacific delegates will be attending for me, however, and I look forward to talking with them about their experience and observations when they return home from Majuro.