WASHINGTON — Sally Jewell advanced Thursday toward being installed as Interior secretary, with an assist from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.
Heller, a Republican, supported Jewell in a confirmation vote held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The panel backed President Barack Obama’s pick by a 19-3 vote, sending the nomination to the full Senate for a final vote.
The Interior secretary is arguably the Cabinet official whose decisions most affect Nevada, where more than 85 percent of land is managed by the federal government.
Heller had met with Jewell and questioned her during a public session earlier this month on her views on mining. He said his support was cemented in a telephone call with her on Wednesday night.
“It is critical for Nevada that we have a good working relationship with the Interior Department,” Heller said after the vote.
Heller told fellow senators he was “comfortable” with Jewell’s assurances to work with Nevada officials seeking to head off an endangered species listing for the sage grouse, which he said eclipses all other land issues in the state.
“I don’t expect her to have all the answers at this point but she has assured me and my staff she is willing to work together so we can work through some of these issues and these problems,” he said.
An endangered species listing for the sage grouse, a chicken-sized range bird, would threaten to lock up millions of acres of rangeland habitat across Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
A listing “could hurt every county in Nevada and literally stifle economic recovery if something isn’t done to make sure we solve this problem before a bird like that gets listed,” Heller said.
Jewell, who is from Seattle, is chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc., the outdoor supply company.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.