Inside the newsroom: A conversation with former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

“This land is your land, this land is my land/ From the California to the New York island/ From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters/ This land was made for you and me.” — Woody Guthrie, 1944

SALT LAKE CITY — Sally Jewell walked into the Deseret News board room alone, void of any entourage, wearing a black sweater, slacks and a turquoise and coral necklace characteristic of a piece one might find at any of the jewelry outposts that dot the two-lane roads connecting the vistas of the great Southwest.

The former secretary of the Interior ended her time in President Barack Obama’s cabinet with the change in the presidential administration and then spent part of the past half-year as a civilian traveling from Washington, D.C. to her home state of Washington.

“My husband and I took an epic road trip from one Washington to the other,” she said, as she described stops that “steeped ourselves in the African-American story of the country,” including three national monuments established by President Obama.

“But then we spent time in the desert Southwest, including Utah, Organ, (Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument), Rio Grande del Norte (New Mexico). We camped out — the only people at that point in the campground because it was winter. But beautiful stars, and actually hiking was spectacular there,” she said.

“Organ Peaks, my gosh, we went out with a petroleum geologist or geophysicist who worked in the oil industry, retired and is now volunteering for the BLM to interpret the incredible geology down there. And then came into the Four Corners area. That national monument, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep (San Juan County, Utah), and then into the Bears Ears area where we spent several days with a guide.”

The Bears Ears National Monument would dominate the next hour of conversation as Jewell met with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards only hours after giving her first public address since leaving her cabinet position, this time to like-minded land enthusiasts at the Outdoor Retailers convention in Salt Lake City.

Last summer she met with the Deseret News editorial board when the wait was on for a public lands bill from Rep. Rob Bishop, supported by Utah’s congressional delegation. But it was slow to come, didn’t do what…

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