Ken Salazar a Disappointing Choice for Secretary of Interior

For Immediate Release

Center for Biological Diversity
Contact: 

Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960

Ken Salazar a Disappointing Choice for Secretary of Interior

Stronger, More Scientifically Based Leadership Needed to Fix Crisis-Plagued Agency

TUSCON, Ariz - Strong rumors are circulating that President-elect Barack Obama has
selected Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the new Secretary of the Interior.
As the overseer of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land
Management, the Mineral Management Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of the
Interior is most important position in the protection of America's
lands, waters, and endangered species.

The
Department of the Interior has been rocked by scandals during the Bush
Administration, most revolving around corrupt bureaucrats overturning
and squelching agency scientists as they attempted to protect
endangered species and natural resources from exploitation by
developers, loggers, and oil and gas development. Just yesterday, the
Interior Department Inspector General issued another in a string of reports finding
that top Department officials systematically violated laws and
regulations in order to avoid or eliminate environmental protections.

"The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward
looking, reform-minded Secretary," said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity,
"unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man. He endorsed George Bush's
selection of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, the very woman
who initiated and encouraged the scandals that have rocked the
Department of Interior. Virtually all of the misdeeds described in
yesterday's Inspector General expose occurred during the tenure of the
person Ken Salazar advocated for the position he is now seeking."

While Salazar has promoted some good environmental actions and fought
against off-road vehicle abuse, his overall record is decidedly mixed,
and is especially weak in the arenas most important to
the next Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity,
combating global warming, reforming energy development and protecting
endangered species. Salazar

 - voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S. automobile fleet
 - voted to end protection for offshore oil drilling off of Florida's coast
 - voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming impacts in their water development projects
 - voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil
 - voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public forest and range lands
 - threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its
scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered
 - fought efforts to increase protection for endangered species and the environment in the Farm Bill

"Obama's choices for Secretary of Energy and his Climate Change Czar
indicate a determined willingness to take on global warming," said
Suckling. "That team will be weakened by the addition of Ken
Salazar who has fought against federal action on global warming,
against higher fuel efficiency standards, and for increased oil
drilling and oil subsidies."

In addition to his
misstep on Norton, Salazar, as attorney general, endorsed the elevation
of William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior
Department Solicitor and lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator
Leahy called him ''the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench
I have seen in 37 years in the Senate." Bizarrely, Salazar praised
Myers' "outstanding legal reasoning" regarding endangered species,
Indian affairs, federal lands and water, timber, and fish and wildlife
issues.  The American Bar Association gave Meyers its lowest passing
grade with a minority vote of "not qualified." Salazar flip-flopped
after becoming a senator and opposed Meyers. Salazar also supported
Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, introducing him at his Senate
confirmation hearing.

"One of the most important
jobs of the Secretary of the Interior is to help pick dozens of
critically important political appointees to oversee America's
conservation system. His past misjudgments of Norton, Meyers and
Gonzales give us little confidence he will choose wisely in the future."

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