Vail Daily’s view: Salazar’s right for interior secretary
Vail, CO, Colorado
President-elect Barack Obama has made a wise choice in asking Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to lead the Department of the Interior.
Salazar is a moderate Democrat and a native Coloradan who has proven throughout a career in government that he understands the connections Westerners feel to the open spaces that are under increasing pressure from builders and energy companies.
While he can hardly be called a tree hugger, he has urged a more cautious approach to exploiting Colorado’s wilderness areas for the oil and gas reserves underground.
He has tried to keep parts of western Colorado’s Roan Plateau off limits to oil wells because it is a beautiful place that’s considered important wildlife habitat, and it is a critical attraction in the recreation industry that’s crucial for the Western Slope.
He also has been a strong advocate of renewable energy, but for national security reasons as much as environmental concerns. He has said the money spent on foreign oil helps fuel terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.
Obama’s mantras have been change and cooperation between parties, and Salazar has shown he’s willing to defy fellow Democrats on occasion. He supported Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who for awhile was the Democrats’ least favorite member of the administration.
He also seems to be prepared for his new role. A day after Obama’s election, while playing down the likelihood of becoming secretary of the Interior, he said the incoming administration would take a more balanced approach to Western land management. A more balanced approach is more likely to be less deferential to business than the Bush administration’s policies, but it will hardly be skewed in favor of environmental extremists.
As with the Roan Plateau, Salazar has shown he can take positions that support both the environment and the economy. That’s a pretty valuable outlook as the country faces both financial crises and vanishing open space.
Vail Daily Editorial Board