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LAS VEGAS -- Interior Secretary Sally Jewell got a surprise visit from the nation's 26th president yesterday at the Western Governors' Association winter meeting on the Las Vegas strip.
Theodore Roosevelt greeted Jewell as she made her way to her seat. His red handkerchief, beaver-skinned hat and pince-nez spectacles stood out in the room full of black business suits and ties.
It was déjà vu for Jewell, who first saw Teddy when she delivered a Dec. 31 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This time, he looked on from the third row as the Interior chief delivered a speech at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on balancing energy development and resources.
Adam "TR" Lindquist, a Theodore Roosevelt impersonator, greets Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the Western Governors' Association winter meeting in Las Vegas. He wants Jewell to channel Roosevelt's conservation legacy. Photo by Phil Taylor.
"It's not Halloween, so that must be who you are," Jewell said to Roosevelt, drawing laughs from the audience.
Roosevelt -- impersonated by Adam "TR" Lindquist of Minnesota -- is sponsored by Environment America and Environment New Mexico, which is urging President Obama to designate about a half a million acres of rugged mountains and canyons near Las Cruces as a national monument.
The group is ferrying Lindquist to Jewell's public appearances to remind her about Roosevelt's conservation legacy.
Roosevelt in 1906 signed the Antiquities Act, the controversial law that allows presidents with the stroke of a pen to preserve public lands and cultural resources they deem at risk of development. Roosevelt used the law to protect the Grand Canyon from industrial and commercial development, including mining and railroads.
The Republican president designated 18 national monuments and protected 230 million acres of public land, the National Park Service says.
Obama is being pressed to protect several landscapes as monuments in his second term. Jewell will play a major role in vetting and recommending which lands he designates.
"It's a great reminder of the vision of Teddy Roosevelt in our whole conservation of some of these incredible landscapes, and I'm sure that is part of his intent," Jewell said of Lindquist after her speech. "It certainly doesn't bother me."
At her October speech, Jewell said the president intends to use the Antiquities Act if Congress fails to pass locally supported conservation bills. Channeling the words of Roosevelt, she called conservation "a great moral issue."
Lindquist's appearance yesterday coincided with the introduction of a bill by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to designate the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument outside of Las Cruces. The measure, which would also designate 240,000 acres of wilderness, is a slightly expanded version of a bill by former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
"It's a way to inject a little fun into the campaign," Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico, said of Lindquist's appearances. "We're working with Teddy Roosevelt because we know the secretary has a deep admiration for the president."
Environment America earlier this month launched a national campaign called "What would Teddy do?" that includes an online letter campaign and Facebook ads.
For Lindquist, impersonating Roosevelt comes easily.
The marketing strategist, who lives south of the Twin Cities, is a hunter and avid outdoorsman, like Roosevelt. Lindquist, whose clients also include the Wild Turkey Federation, said he's long been a member of REI, the outfitter of which Jewell was CEO before becoming Interior chief.
"I represent a thought. I represent a viewpoint of conservation," Lindquist said.
It's not easy to get an audience with a Cabinet secretary, but Lindquist, with his knee-high boots and camel-hair sweater, has managed to grab Jewell's attention at both his appearances. He said he stays in character.
"I'm a guy dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt, but the point is she understands every time I see her," Lundquist said. "The reason I'm here is you're the right person in the right job at the right time. Do your best."
Moore said that Environment New Mexico has invited Jewell to visit the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico, and that she appeared receptive to coming.
If she does, Roosevelt will surely be there to greet her.