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Obama to nominate head of REI for Interior secretary

Updated 10:36 am ET, Feb. 6. President Obama will nominate the head of the outdoor retail chain REI to head up the Interior Department. The president will make the nomination official during a 2:00 pm ET announcement from the White House.

The choice of CEO Sally Jewell is an unconventional one, as the post has been filled in the past by politicians from the West. For example, the last five secretaries have been governors of Idaho and Arizona, a senator and attorney general from Colorado, and a congressman from New Mexico.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell would be the second woman to fill the post being vacated by former Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), who announced he would step down last month. Obama has taken some criticism for not replacing outgoing, high-level women in his cabinet with women.

Jewell, a former banking executive and petroleum engineer, began her career as an engineer for Mobil. She worked in the fields of Oklahoma, spending three years there after receiving her degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington.

That's not going to be a problem, though, it appears. The League of Conservation Voters came out in support of her.

"Sally Jewell has a unique appreciation for public lands and has been nationally recognized for her conservation efforts. She's the right choice to promote conservation and protect America's national treasures," League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement. "We look forward to working with her and thank Secretary Salazar for his leadership over the last four years."

She took over at REI in 2005.

NBC's Peter Alexander reports that a White House official says Jewell's management experience of a $2 billion company makes her "uniquely qualified."

"She will bring to the position integrity, keen management skills, as well as dedication to the Department's mission of managing our nation's lands," the official said, touting her "commitment to conservation."

The official adds, "Conservation has been a central principal of Sally's life, both personally and professionally. She believes deeply in the American tradition of preserving our nation's wild places, while also understanding firsthand the inextricable link between conservation and the economy. She also believes we must be good stewards of our nation's natural resources, underscoring the Administration's ongoing priority of expanding safe and responsible energy production, beginning her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corporation.

The official also notes Jewell being "a key contributor to the establishment and implementation of the President's America's Great Outdoors program. In 2011, Sally introduced President Obama at the White House conference on 'America's Great Outdoor Initiative,' noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry is the source of 6.5 million jobs."