Ken Salazar is reportedly leaving his post as Secretary of Interior in March of this year. His legacy includes a failed delisting of wolves in Idaho and Montana, which was legislatively pushed through, delisting of wolves in Wyoming where wolves are treated as vermin, approval of the Deepwater Horizon using a categorical exclusion from National Environmentally Policy Act analysis, development of many solar and wind plants in sensitive wildlife habitats, and development of other large tracts of wildlife habitats for oil and gas.

Salazar = Extractive Industries’ ‘BFF’

Appointed in 2009, with little public outcry by many of the mainstream conservation groups and chear-leading by others, Ken Salazar rushed to develop vast areas of pristine public lands and oceans for natural gas, oil, wind and solar energy which has been a disaster for wildlife and the environment. Remember the Gulf Oil Spill anyone?

It wasn’t long before his background as a Colorado rancher became a noticeable influence over his policy decisions.

His very first action as Secretary was to push through the flawed delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies which was overturned in the courts, then reinstated legislatively to protect the senate seat of Montana Democrat Jon Tester. The move was widely panned by conservation groups and was clearly made to mollify the livestock industry.

Wild horse advocates became particularly critical of the BLM policy of rounding up and “zeroing out” wild horse populations in areas where livestock numbers have simultaneously been maintained.

With his ranching background he vigorously defended public lands ranching despite the damage to natural resources it causes throughout the West and virtually nothing has changed with regard to public lands livestock management from the Bush years. In fact, because the general public has a view that Democrats are better on environmental issues they have quit paying attention and things have gotten worse. In just about every way he has fought the protection of lands and wildlife whenever there was a conflict with commercial interests.


Salazar also sought to fast track large scale industrial energy development of public lands. In some cases, such as in the Ivanpah solar project, intact and ecologically important desert habitat was developed. The BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service seriously underestimated the number endangered desert tortoises that would be displaced and ultimately killed but, after a short suspension of construction, the solar plant was allowed to move forward.

Another fast tracked project, the Spring Valley Wind Project in eastern Nevada, was built just a few miles from one of the largest bat caves in Nevada which houses up to 1 million Brazilian free-tailed bats during their fall migration. Bats are known to suffer high mortality from wind turbines caused by barotruama which causes their lungs to implode and blood vessels to rupture.

The position of Secretary of Interior is important because the Secretary oversees several federal bureaus that affect policy in many areas that affect lands, seas, and wildlife:

The beltway wisdom is that a westerner is the right pick for the position because most of the lands managed by the Department of Interior are in the West.

It is time for a new perspective with regard to federal lands managed by the Department of Interior. Maybe it isn’t the right choice to choose a western politician who has a brown record on environmental issues. Someone more progressive who understands the underhanded approach of industry and the corrupt nature of the land management agencies might be better to take the helm and reform them.

Those of us in the West who have watched the day-to-day workings of the BLM, USFWS, and NPS are hoping for a time when these agencies actually use the best available science and understand the peril that our lands and wildlife face. It’s time to break away from the beltway/conventional wisdom and appoint someone with knowledge of science and who does not have a history of exploiting our lands, water, and wildlife for profit or political gain, someone who has a real history of conservation.

The time is ripe for conservation groups to rock the boat and get behind someone who has a strong record of conservation.

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Western Watershed Project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is also serves as a member of the board of directors for Buffalo Field Campaign and as a member of the Sierra Club Grazing Core Team.

37 Responses to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is Leaving His Cabinet Position

  1. avatar Mike says:

    When I voted for Obama in 2008, I expected him to elect a progressive to SOI, and to let that progressive rid the department of the Bush chronies while Obama focused on the economic disaster.

    This did not happen, and this is perhaps the biggest mistake of Obama’s first term.

    Obama can immediately repair his green image by hiring a guy like Ron Grijalva.

    Salazar was the worst. Please, no more corporate ranchers heading the nation’s largest land agency.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      A lot of damage has been done. It is impossible to repair, but perhaps we can have a fresh start. President Obama hasn’t stood out as a president concerned with environment and wildlife, and achieved what even George Bush could not do. I have been terribly dissappointed. Hopefully someone better will be appointed, and not worse. I’m not optimistic about Christine Gregoire at all – Raul Grijalva would be the best to hope for.

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        Does anyone know what has happened to the petitions circulating calling for Grijalava as a consideration for Secretary.

        Better yet now would be the time for a thoughtful letter to the President with a collective voice from as many environmental, wilderness, and wildlife advocates as possible.

  2. avatar Louise Kane says:

    Some comments after a Denver Post story

    Bivouac wrote:
    Thank you for your public service, Mr. Salazar.

    We can still use you here in Colorado in any capacity possible.

    He’ll be back, don’t worry. He can still (soft) serve the citizens best by working at his family’s Dairy Queen in northwest Denver!

    He can don an apron, speak Spanish all day, and whip up Blizzards this summer.

    At last there is a job that he is capable of doing. And when he says, “Hi, welcome to Dairy Queen!” you’ll just know that he is where he should be!

    by lync on Today, 6:58 am #2833547

    Dont let the door hit you in the posterior of the interior secretary.

    So Ken the green progressive fool is coming back here to be yet another talking head who will live off of his Government pension and sweet heart deals that lined his pockets which is another reason why our Country is going bankrup

    by mythoughts on Today, 6:46 am #2833523

    I think I’m going to cry.

    by mtnsjohn on Today, 6:18 am #2833489

    Gosh Allison, what a glowing piece on one of Obama’s chief water carriers. Your assessment makes him perhaps the most perfect Interior Secretary of all time. No wonder you had a hard time finding anything to criticize about him.

    Another view:

    Screw up, cover up, move up, pack up. After trampling the rule of law, defying court orders, doctoring scientific conclusions, threatening the media for asking inconvenient questions, and destroying countless jobs in the name of environmental protection, President Obama’s loathsome cowboy Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is finally headed for the exit door.

  3. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Raul Grijalva would be best but this article mentions former Senator Jeff Bingaman as a possible replacement. He wouldn’t be as bad as some of the others mentioned.

    NewsDaily: Interior Secretary Salazar plans to step down.

    • avatar Mark L says:

      I agree…there are some other ‘good’ choices. I’ll take the devil I don’t know (whoever) over the devil I know in this case…there was just no upside for conservationists with Salazar.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Now Obama is starting to get flack for not having enough minorities in his cabinet. It seems way premature to me to agree. However, folks could play up Raul Grijalva’s Hispanic credentials.

      More likely, Obama will take the easy path and choose a giant corporation-loving woman like Washington State’s ex-governor Christine Gregoire.

      • avatar JimT says:

        Karin has heard her name mentioned as well. Here’s an idea…perhaps Mark Udall and Salazar switch jobs. I know Mark isn’t looking forward to another grueling money raising campaign, and his middle of the road stands on just about everything has some eviros…me included..shaking their heads at his timid approach on important issues. And Salazar might want to return to the Senate…stranger things have happened.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        I wish that people would stop making these important positions about these things and more about the job itself? Some day we will have progressed to the point where the right person for the job will be all that matters, not age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity….

        The job content and results fall by the wayside.

    • avatar Maska says:

      I like my former Senator (Jeff Bingaman), but he isn’t known for taking really tough stands on conservation of endangered species (e.g. Mexican wolves). He’s a decent, thoughtful fellow with at least some respect for science and would definitely be better than Gregoire or numerous other Westerners I can think of, but I wouldn’t expect him to buck the adminstration line, probably not even behind closed doors. The real problem with DOI is a lack of concern for wild lands and wild creatures on the part of Obama himself.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        It’s especially disappointing when you consider that Democrats have a reputation for concern and awareness in these matters.

        • avatar savebears says:

          Ida,

          At the national level, Obama’s administration over the last 4 years has shown the Democrats are no better on the environment than republicans have been.

          • avatar Ida Lupine says:

            We can agree on that, SB.

          • avatar Mark L says:

            Savebears says,
            “At the national level, Obama’s administration over the last 4 years has shown the Democrats are no better on the environment than republicans have been.”

            Agreed. I think D’s need to come to terms with this also…something that hasn’t been discussed by many members. If they don’t, the R’s may eventually get a decent conservationist that will pull a lot of voters away. Could be strange times ahead.

          • avatar Joseph C. Allen says:

            Difference bein’ is the way you spell the party…..

          • avatar JimT says:

            Too broad of a statement…Historically, Dems have been much more protective in their postures on environmental issues than Republicans in the West. Salazar shows background is more important than party affiliation…once a rancher and oil and gas guy, always…..

      • avatar WM says:

        ++The real problem with DOI is a lack of concern for wild lands and wild creatures on the part of Obama himself.++

        I expect the D’s generally and Obama himself might have greater concern for wildlands and wild creatures but for three concerns. 1) Natural resource job preservation and new job creation in the weak economy 2) Energy independence mandate from the White House (hence the exploration stuff); 3) Not pissing off the moderates by moving too far to the left and risking a greater R majority in the House, and maybe even losing a Senate seat or two (possibly giving the R’s the majority there, as well) in any of the 17 Western states.

        Another possibility from WA (which geographically might be appealing) in addition to departing Governor Gregoire, is retiring House Rep. Norm Dicks (WA-D). Norm was a very powerful and respected force in Congress, has been a big supporter of the NP system, knows Interior well, and has a pretty consistent and good record on the environment. He is an “A List” candidate, but at age 72 may have had enough of living in DC, and dealing with pissy, agenda oriented, reporters.

        • avatar Maska says:

          Dicks would be a better choice than most of the folks whose names I’ve heard floated.

          • avatar JimT says:

            Norm Dicks couldn’t get confirmed…that will be the hangup. Same with folks like Roger S, former ED of Defenders who would be totally qualified for this job.

            This will be a political calculation once again to avoid a confirmation fight for a position that, frankly, Obama views as a necessary evil…

  4. avatar Salle says:

    Wow,
    I don’t know what’s up with the formatting for this page but when I opened thread by way of the header, some strange looking format page came up and no comments were visible, I had to go back to the main page and find someone’s comment to see the regular format and comments. Strange.

    AS for the topic at hand…. YAYYY!! Good riddance! I hope Rep. Grihalva is nominated.

  5. avatar malencid says:

    Rocky BarkeroftheIdaho Stateman has some names that noone else has mentioned
    http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2013/01/16/rockybarker/will_obama_pick_a_woman_lead_interior

    • avatar jdubya says:

      That is a good read. I like the REI lady…think about having a recreationalist in charge instead of the usual rancher/miner/logger, etc.

  6. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    I should probably not even mention his name here in this context , but does anyone have a bead on outgoing Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer’s next move?

    • avatar savebears says:

      Have not heard a thing Cody, he has made no public announcement on what his future plans are.

    • avatar Salle says:

      I hope he just goes home to the ranch. He would be pushing hard for the Keystone XL pipeline and that’s an automatic downer in my book.

  7. avatar Justin Forte says:

    With all of the horrible things Cowboy Kennie has done to our wildlands and wildlife, all I have to say is good riddance to this lowlife! Cowboy Kennie is one of main reasons why I didn’t vote for Obama in the last election! He is the worst Interior Secretary in our nation’s history!

  8. avatar Sam Parks says:

    “Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is Leaving His Cabinet Position”

    …And the peasants rejoice!

  9. avatar JimT says:

    Story in the NYTIMES today about his leaving and his record makes NO mention of the disaster of the Tester Amendment and its effects on wolves and the long term viability of the ESA. And the NYTIMES has dismantled its environmental desk, so those of us who care about more than climate change per se lost another forum.

  10. avatar Richie G says:

    Being he is leaving SOI for last bothers me, the Kennedy who is on the ring of fire radio show was mentioned the first go around. I wish he would pick him,IMHO he is the best for the job. He has not been in politics,yes his family has, and they have a bad track record in passing away. What is in the back of my mind with all Obama wants with the automatic weapons to be banned,he might not want to push the hunters of this country,the ones out west and in the great lakes are his biggest problem. For picking a good S0I, that’s it.

  11. avatar Kayla says:

    Now good that Salazar is leaving! I just hope that Obama appoints Ron Grijalva also. We need some strong environmentalist for this post. But personnaly I think it is just dreaming and this is one thing that Obama will not do. Like other Presidents, he is just a pawn and a puppet of Wall Street and the Banksters. He will most probably be appointing someone else for this job. And I will not be surprised.

    Now with all the current rectoric concerning firearms, including from Obama, it is that just plain rectoric and nothing will be done. There is something he can do is reverse and undo the executive order from Bush undoing allowing guns in the National Parks. Now if can’t even do this, then how can we expect him to appoint a real environmentalist for the job of Interior Secretery. Now Obama was born in Chicago, all his life he has lived in the cities, and all his vacations in at some resort. Obama in his personal life does NOT have a connection to the natural wild world it seems. So how can we expect him do something for the environment. How many of them rather they are Republican or Democrat are just shills for the Western Beast Economic and Consumer Culture with having NO ties to the Natural Wild Mother Earth! And like Bob Marshall do think said paraphrased, “Wilderness is disappearing like a snowbank in the summer”.

    Just my two cents worth.

  12. avatar alf says:

    We could sure use Bruce Babbit again !

    Or the guy who ran the foresry circus under Clinton. I forget his name. Was it Mike Dombeck ? He was a fisheries biologist, if remember correctly.

  13. avatar malencid says:

    Kayla,

    Very well said. I have been using this argument about Obama for a long time. He is not interested in the natural world. I don’t know why people can’t see this. A Teddy Roosevelt will not be in our future.

    • avatar Judith Moss Pobjecky says:

      That’s for sure – a Teddy Roosevelt he is not. I have not seen concern for the natural world….Very sad.

  14. avatar Richie G says:

    I just hope Obama is trying to change his image by picking a women. She has many qualifications,she worked in oil then insurance, then as an outfitter,if she can convince the president,that their is more money in outfitting than oil,we have a shot in protection the wolves the bears and the entire environment. But she must tread lightly and change things slowly, Obama might see this. The oil grants he gave are on the open market,it does not help our price of a gallon of gas. Plus all these drill pollutes the west,so what good is it except for the oil companies. IMHO Obama has a lot to juggle.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey