The White House confirmed Wednesday that Ken Salazar will be stepping down in March from his post as Secretary of Interior. The majority of environmentalist groups couldn’t be happier.
Salazar, a fifth-generation rancher, former Colorado attorney general and senator, leaves the position with a less-than-stellar environmental record. His listings for endangered species were paltry, even compared to the Bush administration.
Barack Obama’s choice in 2008 for Salazar to manage the DOI was controversial with wildlife advocates from the start, but he was confirmed and tasked with cleaning up the beleaguered department and restoring scientific integrity, while overcoming skepticism expressed by the environmental community.
But environmentalists have been very disappointed and claim he has the worst record in the history of the DOI. He was supposed to restore scientific integrity to the department, but has appeared to let his personal bias as a rancher and landowner get in the way of protecting species like wolves and prairie dogs.
Many controversial decisions have been made by Salazar, like removing Rocky Mountain wolves from the ESA while the species is still vulnerable, the failure to use the full force of the ESA to protect polar bear habitat, the mishandling of the drilling permit process after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and most recently the mismanagement of wild horses on public land being sold potentially for slaughter.
Defenders of Wildlife has continued to file lawsuits for wolf protection that will simmer throughout 2013, well after Salazar is gone.
After four years of Salazar’s leadership as secretary, his report card gets a failing grade from wildlife conservationists and last month a letter signed by 238 environmental groups was sent to President Obama asking him to replace Salazar with Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Grijalva has an excellent record as the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public lands and he has been a leader on the House Natural Resource Committee.
“Congressman Grijalva’s a visionary leader with the courage and practical skills to solve the long list of pressing environmental issues we face," said Kieran Suckling, director of Center for Biological Diversity. "There’s no better person for interior secretary than Mr. Grijalva.”
Excerpt from letter from coalition of environmentalists, including groups like WildEarth Guardians and Prairie Dog Coalition, to Obama regarding his choice of Interior Secretary:
The next Interior Secretary will have a crucial role to play in addressing the growing threat of global warming to national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, wildlife and all the people who enjoy and depend upon them. While scientists have clearly established the enormity of the task before us to adapt to a changing climate, Interior has thus far taken only small steps and issued no significant policy decisions. Now is the time to establish a firm, science‐based action plan to manage lands, waters and wildlife under these new intensifying stresses. Such action requires a knowledgeable, visionary leader who grasps both the urgency of this crisis and the practical paths toward real‐world solutions.
Salazar’s departure comes at a time when Obama is tackling thorny issues in Congress like gun control and the debt ceiling, with immigration and climate change percolating on backburner, while he also fields criticism for failing to appoint more women and increase diversity in his cabinet.
Rep. Raul Grijalva is a Mexican American. If only he were a female, he would probably be nominated in a nano-second. Whether he would get support of Republicans, who seem cranky about every nominee the president has named, would be the question.
Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.