Steamboat Springs With Inauguration Day two weeks away, President-elect Obama's cabinet positions nearly are filled. There has been criticism from both sides of the aisle. Where is the "change" among the many Clinton-era personnel? Why are there only two GOP cabinet designates? With any presidential transition, there will be unavoidable scrutiny, and the truth is, we cannot judge any of these appointments until they actually begin their work. However, there is one selection that deserves praise: our Senator, Ken Salazar, for Interior Secretary.
No matter your political leaning, it is hard to disagree that Ken Salazar is the ideal person to head a department of our national government that undoubtedly will play a crucial role in revitalizing our economy, protecting our fleeting natural lands and weaning us from dependence on foreign energy. Ken Salazar was not selected by Barack Obama for this position because he looks the part, though the cowboy hat and bolo tie certainly are a convincing touch. He was not selected because the position needs to be filled by a Western official (i.e. Gale Norton, Colorado native and Bush's first Interior Secretary). Obama poached Salazar from the Senate because he knows he has the experience and knowledge of the challenges he will face every day, as well as the passion to make the vital decisions that will face the Department of the Interior in the coming years.
Looking at Ken Salazar's record and resume, it becomes clear that he will bring a breadth of knowledge and experience to the position. In 1990, Salazar became director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. With our resources of coal, oil, trees and water, this is a critical role. One of Salazar's distinguished accomplishments in this position was creating reforms that forced mining and oil activities to better protect the environment and the public. The "new energy economy" is going to require intense regulation to ensure safety for the public and minimal environmental damage. Salazar also dealt intensely with water issues, and he understands the importance of upholding agreements such as the Colorado River Compact, which allocates water among the seven states and Mexico that have access to the Colorado River. This compact is absolutely vital for the farmers and sportsmen of Colorado and cannot be threatened. From the beginning, Salazar has been on the side of responsible development and protection of Colorado's natural resources.
The current Interior Department is one that is embattled with scandal and corruption. It was revealed in September that federal workers of the department who handle billions in oil leases were involved in drug use and affairs with energy company executives in exchange for higher recommendation and illicit gifts. Between 2003 and 2007, nearly 15 designations for the endangered species list were manipulated to advance a political agenda. We need someone to restore respect and reliability to this important department. As Colorado attorney general, Salazar fought environmental crime by creating the Environmental Crime Unit. Salazar will not stand for the activities of past years and will work to restore the integrity that we require.
Ken Salazar is someone who will implement President Obama's agenda for matters of the Interior, as well as his own. As a Senator, Salazar has shown his desire to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. He has supported measures that would open off-shore oil drilling while emphasizing the importance of doing so in a safe and responsible manner. He also knows that our new energy economy will be created through the use of alternative fuels. He was an avid supporter, along with Democrats Joe Biden, of Delaware, and Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, and Republicans Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, among others, of the Energy Independence Act of 2007, which promotes clean fuels and energy efficient construction and requires an average fuel economy of 35 mpg by 2020. Energy independence is going to be one of the prevailing issues of the Obama presidency, and the Interior Department will be crucial in making it a success.
Most importantly, Barack Obama has found somebody who is not a politician, but rather a Coloradan who went to Washington to protect our land, water and people. Now, Ken Salazar will protect our nation's land, water, and people. Be proud, Colorado.
Dylan Roberts was Barack Obama's Field Organizer for Northwest Colorado in the presidential campaign. He currently is a sophomore at Boston College pursuing a degree in political science and environmental studies. Dylan went to high school in Steamboat and ski raced for SSWSC.