Secretary Praises President's Intent to Nominate Wilma Lewis as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today praised President Obama's announcement that he intends to nominate Wilma Lewis, a former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and Inspector General at Interior, as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.

“Interior will play a critical role in achieving President Obama's goal of a comprehensive national energy plan because the lands we manage provide 30 percent of the nation's domestically-produced energy,” Secretary Salazar said. “Our mandate is to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, build a clean-energy economy, and make wise use of our conventional energy resources. Wilma Lewis' extensive legal, law enforcement and managerial experience, high ethical standards and personal integrity make her well-qualified to help us create energy-related jobs here in America, protect our national security and confront the dangers of global warming.”

As U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1998 to 2001, Lewis was the first woman and the second African-American to be appointed to the position by the President of the United States. She managed and supervised the largest U.S. Attorney's Office in the country with more than 700 staff members -- including over 350 attorneys -- and the unique responsibility of serving as both federal and local prosecutor. During her tenure as U.S. Attorney, Lewis increased the Office's focus on public corruption, recognizing a need to ensure the community that those who violate the public trust would be investigated and held accountable.

She also launched several major initiatives with strategies tailored to address pressing law enforcement concerns, including the city-wide expansion of Community Prosecution, which paired prosecutors and community outreach specialists with geographically assigned areas of the city to enhance the Office's interaction with, and responsiveness to, the particular law enforcement needs of various neighborhoods. Together with initiatives addressing criminal activity involving gangs, guns, nuisance properties and narcotics trafficking, Lewis also focused on youth crime prevention initiatives, including the creation of school-based anti-violence and legal enrichment programs and the development of a Drug Education for Youth summer camp and year-long mentoring program.

From 1995 to 1998, Lewis was the Inspector General for Interior, the first African American to hold that Senate-confirmed position. As IG, she managed a staff of 300 in 12 offices and conducted investigations and audits designed to prevent and detect fraud, promote economy, uncover waste and abuse and promote efficiency. She also performed the functions of government comptroller for the U.S. territories.

Under her leadership, the Office of Inspector General initiated an aggressive fraud awareness outreach program focused on informing and educating Departmental personnel in recognizing and reporting suspected fraudulent activity. She also launched proactive investigative initiatives in a variety of areas, including the underpayment of royalties on federal mineral leases, the recovery of delinquent coal reclamation fees owed by surface coal operators, and an environmental initiative focusing on violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Before serving as IG, Lewis was an Associate Solicitor at Interior from 1993 to 1995, managing and supervising the Division responsible for handling equal opportunity compliance, administrative law, personnel, torts, contracts and ethics matters. From 1986 to 1993, Lewis worked in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, where she was lead counsel on behalf of the United States in a wide assortment of civil cases in both federal trial and appellate courts, and subsequently served in supervisory and management positions in the Civil Division. From 2001 to 2007, Lewis was a partner at Crowell & Moring LLP, where she specialized in complex civil litigation and internal investigations.

Lewis is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor degree in 1981. She was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, with distinction, by Swarthmore College in 1978, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She has served on a number of boards and commissions, and has received numerous professional achievement awards and honors, including the Janet Reno Torchbearer Award; the Charlotte E. Ray Award; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dream Keepers Award; the Bethune-Dubois Institute Award; and the National Black Prosecutors Association Founders' Award.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management establishes Interior policies and provides oversight to the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. The assistant secretary oversees management of public lands and resources, including production of federal energy and mineral resources, both onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf. Production of federal energy includes renewable resources, coal, oil, and natural gas. Mineral resources include metals such as gold, industrial minerals such as potash used for fertilizer, and construction minerals such as sand and gravel.

The assistant secretary ensures that the lands and natural resources of the 256-million-acre National System of Public Lands, including the National Landscape Conservation System, and 1.7 billion acres of the Federal Outer Continental Shelf are managed to meet the needs of the American people. The office also provides oversight on federal royalty management, regulation of active coal mining and reclamation, and restoration of abandoned mined areas.

A focus of the office is balancing the nation's need for clean, affordable energy, minerals and other public land resources with a strong program of stewardship and environmental protection while achieving value for American taxpayers. Management goals are accomplished by engaging America's local communities, partners, volunteers and youth.

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