Salazar to leave Cabinet in March

The Colorado Statesman

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar plans to return along with his trademark cowboy hat and bolo tie collection to Colorado in March after four years heading the department, he announced on Wednesday.

“I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation’s first Americans,” said Salazar in a statement.

U.S. Senator Ken Salazar addresses Democrats at their state assembly in 2008.
File photo by The Colorado Statesman

Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan, was twice elected the state’s attorney general and stepped down from his seat in the U.S. Senate to join the incoming Obama administration. He didn’t say whether he had further political plans when he returns to the state, where his family maintains El Rancho Salazar in the San Luis Valley.

Later that summer, Salazar praises Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. On December 17, 2008, President-elect Obama announced he would nominate Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
File photo by The Colorado Statesman

President Barack Obama, who entered the U.S. Senate along with Salazar in 2005, thanked his outgoing Cabinet member: “As the Secretary of the Interior, Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water, and wildlife. Ken has played an integral role in my Administration’s successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources.” Obama went on to praise Salazar for promoting renewable energy on the nation’s public lands while at the same time boosting oil and natural gas production, all while being “driven by the best science and promote the highest safety standards.”

Democrat Ken Salazar campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado in 2004. He faced Republican nominee Pete Coors and won election by a margin of 51% to 47%.
File photo by The Colorado Statesman

During Salazar’s tenure at Interior, the department established seven new national parks and created 10 national wildlife refuges. “From the Crown of the Continent in Montana to the prairie grasslands of Kansas to the Everglades Headwaters in Florida, we are partnering with landowners, farmers, and ranchers to preserve their way of life and the irreplaceable land and wildlife that together we cherish,” Salazar said. “We have established an enduring vision for conservation in the 21st century that recognizes all people from all walks of life.”

Taking office in the wake of sensational scandals that had rocked the Denver-based Minerals Management Service, Salazar dismantled the agency and established three separate offices to oversee fossil fuel extraction on public lands, in the process earning taxpayers billions of dollars in royalty payments that hadn’t been collected under prior administrations. But it was Interior’s response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 — the disaster killed 11 rig workers and pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico — that will perhaps mark the Salazar years most indelibly.

“We have undertaken the most aggressive oil and gas safety and reform agenda in U.S. history, raising the bar on offshore drilling safety, practices and technology and ensuring that energy development is done in the right way and in the right places,” Salazar said this week. “Today, drilling activity in the Gulf is surpassing levels seen before the spill, and our nation is on a promising path to energy independence.”

Salazar and his wife, Esperanza, are the primary caregivers for their 5-year-old granddaughter, who is autistic.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com