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Obama picks female business executive for Interior

US President Barack Obama nominates Sally Jewell to be the next secretary of the interior on February 6, 2013
US President Barack Obama announces his choice of Sally Jewell, president and CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), to be the next secretary of the interior in the State Dining Room of the White House on February 6, 2013 in Washington.

US President Barack Obama, under pressure over a lack of diversity in top cabinet appointments, on Wednesday picked business executive Sally Jewell to head the vast Interior Department.

Obama has been criticized for naming middle-aged white men to top jobs on his second-term team, but he has pledged to promote diversity in his other picks and has now settled on several prominent females.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell -- who heads Recreational Equipment Inc., an outdoors retail chain -- will succeed Ken Salazar at Interior, which manages US national resources, wildlife, tribal issues and national parks.

"She knows the link between conservation and good jobs," said Obama as he introduced Jewell at the White House.

"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 and hand.

"She's shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet," Obama said.

Jewell's nomination was welcomed by the National Wildlife Federation, which said that hunters, anglers, hikers, kayakers and bird watchers would welcome her first-hand understanding of how to protect national treasures.

The Western Energy Alliance, a trade association for oil and natural gas firms, welcomed the fact that Jewell, had previously worked for Mobil Oil Corporation.

"Her 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," said alliance president Tim Wigley.

Obama had been under pressure to add more diversity to his new cabinet after picking Chuck Hagel, John Kerry and Jack Lew, to serve as the secretaries of Defense, State and Treasury.

In January, Obama nominated high-powered New York prosecutor and organized crime-buster Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement his Wall Street reforms.

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