WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2015 – Sally Jewell, head of the Department of the Interior (DOI), announced Tuesday that her team will create a Natural Resources Investment Center aimed at providing conservation resources and information to private, academic, federal, state, and other partners to help solve a host of environmental issues.

Jewell made the announcement this morning at the start of the White House Roundtable on Water Innovation, a discussion panel tasked with thinking up ways to engage the private sector and increase private investment in critical water infrastructure projects.

“We know the federal government doesn’t have all the answers, we don’t pretend to,” Jewell said to an audience of private sector stakeholders. “But we want to be effective, efficient partners with you to stretch every dollar we have with every dollar you have to maximum (the) benefit” of this effort.

“I think it’s going to take some bold action. It’s going to take some collaboration, because we do not have enough water in the places that we need it most,” she continued. But she added she thinks it’s “fair to say that when it begins to impact economies, and we do see that in some communities, it wakes everybody up.”

The Center will focus on three areas of need:

  • Increasing water exchanges and transfers in the West.
  • Improving water infrastructure nationwide – particularly where leaks are causing tremendous water loss – and fresh water storage capacity in drought prone areas.
  • Expanding the use of development mitigation banking projects to engage private stakeholders in wildlife and water conservation projects, as proposed by the Obama administration last month.
    Jewell said DOI already offers grants for some of these activities, and will be investing in desalinization technology and strategies to maximize the utility of existing stocks of fresh water through the Center.

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    Conservation and wildlife groups, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited, applauded DOI’s announcement in a release.  

    “I commend Sec. Jewell for creating the Natural Resource Investment Center to bring about more collaboration and identify new, non-federal funding sources that make existing investments in conservation go even further,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of TRCP, said. “Clearly, the administration is taking the concerns of hunters and anglers seriously and responding to the increasing threat of drought in the United States.”

    Scott Yates, director of Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat program, said his group was “pleased that the administration is giving water stakeholders in the West more tools for creatively responding to the challenges of drought and a changing climate.”

    The Center is part of the Obama administration’s Build America Investment Initiative, which supports federal investment in public infrastructure projects.


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