Sen. Salazar Seems to be the Interior Secretary Pick For the Obama Administration

Sen. Salazar. The next Interior secretary?

What does the apparent pick of U.S. Senator Ken Salazar for Interior secretary in the Obama administration mean for public lands management? Well, surely it can't be worse than what's transpired the past eight years, can it?

(I say "apparent" pick because the nomination hasn't been officially announced. Rather, the senator's name was "leaked" to the press, surely to generate some media mojo for the administration.)

Some are despairing over the Colorado Democrat's selection, wishing instead that Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva would have gained the nod. Others are relatively happy, noting that there were lesser names in the mix, folks who might have done public lands management worse than Sen. Salazar might.

As I noted in a comment elsewhere on the Traveler, the senator comes with pluses and minuses. He was among the senators who supported a rule change to allow concealed weapons permit holders to pack in national parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges. Does Sen. Salazar really believe that's proper, or did he take that stance merely to garner home-state support? We won't know until we see whether the Obama administration moves to rescind the rule change.

As for pluses, as director of Colorado's DNR Mr. Salazar "authored the Great Outdoors Colorado Amendment, which created a massive land conservation program of which he became chairman. Salazar also created the Youth in Natural Resources program to provide for environmental education in public schools. In his cabinet role, he established reforms that forced mining and oil operations to better protect the surrounding environment."

He also was the first Senate Democrat to speak out against Paul Hoffman's handiwork with the Management Policies and he cosponsored legislation to fund the NPS centennial.

But then, as another commenter who read the senator's Wikipedia entry noted:

As Colorado's Attorney General, Salazar actively opposed endangered species listing of the black-tailed prairie dog, which, despite its population declines, is still listed as a "pest" by Colorado.[2]

In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards (CAFE) for cars and trucks, a vote that the League of Conservation Voters notes is anti-environment. In the same year, Salazar voted against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for ExxonMobil and other major oil companies. [3]

In 2006, Salazar voted to end protections that limit off-shore drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast.[4]

In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the US Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.[5]

According to Project Vote Smart, Ken Salazar received a 25% vote rating for 2007 by the Humane Society of the United States [6], a 0% vote rating for 2005-2006 for Fund for Animals [7], and a 60% vote rating for 2007 by Defenders of Wilderness [8].

And yet, Sen. Salazar has been cautious when it comes to tar sands and oil-shale exploration, something that could really impact parks in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.

Representative Grijalva no doubt would have been a more outspoken Interior secretary, someone who would come into office with a well-drafted agenda, but is that always the best tack to take in politics? Does the new team in Washington need to swing far to the left after the past eight years of the Bush administration swinging far to the right, or is there a deserved call to be more moderate?

Over at the National Parks Conservation Association, which understandably doesn't want to get off on the wrong foot with the 53-year-old Mr. Salazar, President Tom Kiernan had this to say about the selection:

“Ken Salazar understands that our national parks are national treasures, and his strong, demonstrated commitment to these significant places foretells his success as Secretary of the Interior.

“Sen. Salazar has been an outstanding leader in national park protection in the U.S. Senate. He has championed the strengthening of the parks’ Management Policies, advocated to address the parks’ chronic funding needs, led the introduction of the National Park Centennial Challenge, and worked to harness the educational power of our national parks for our children and grandchildren. He has also championed appropriate expansion of the National Park System.

"Our national parks will be in great hands with Ken Salazar.”

No doubt if this nomination is officially tendered, and Mr. Salazar is confirmed, there will be much scrutiny on his actions in the months ahead. And I'll wager that there will be much to applaud, and more than a little to complain about.

Comments

He's just another government stooge. The Democrats were looking to run another candidate against him next election, and now it looks like they won't have to.

He is cautious about shale oil, but largely because of the water consumption it would require. Should technological advances change that, I'd bet we'd hear a different story from the senator.

On non-environment-related notes, Salazar is against adoption by gay couples. He voted to bailout Wall Street.

As far as the Second Amendment goes, \Kurt, I'd really like to send you a Christmas present: "The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins to the Right to Bear Arms". Too bad Salazar seems to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution he'll uphold and defend.

I sure love me some change.

At this point in the game, I'd say the NPCA is taking the right approach.

Assuming the Salazar nomination is confirmed, it's prudent for park supporters for set a positive tone in a relationship with the new Secretary (i.e. hope for the best, establish good lines of communication, and then monitor results.) There's absolutely nothing to be gained - and a lot to be lost - by negative statements about any new appointee until we see what he'll actually do once on the job.

Ah, yes. This is the "go along, get along" philosophy of those in power in the NPS. Heave forbid we examine the voting record and actions of political appointees and make critical statements about them.

"The defects of every government...must...be as open to discussion as the defects of a law, and it is a duty which every man owes to society to point them out." --Thomas Paine

I'll accept "stooge" as an alternative spelling of "Representative" ... and not a bad one at that! I don't care to whom an Official genuflects in private, so long as he remembers the actual voting-records that got him where he is. "Stooge THIS, Buddy!"

The government is self-serving, as are the politicos ... but if either of them actually had a definitive level of control, the outcome of the 2008 Campaign would have been much different. Etceteras, etc.

A lot can really be told, but is seldom looked directly at - in the history of the Green Party in Europe, and the non-history of the Green Party in North America, et al. At best, they were a faddish contender: now, a minor, verging to unknown used-to-was.

This isn't about the iron grip of government on America, nor the depravity of politics (the inimitable Blagojevich notwithstanding), but rather establishing a plausible Representation of the citizenship.

"We" were never shining, pure, saturated Green (National Parks Traveler notwithstanding) ... else Greenpeace would be sitting on the Cabinet, if not the Big Chair. No, we are at best a dingy olive-drab. Emphasis on the drab ... a good bit like the shade of Ken Salazar, eh?

Hail, Drab! ;-)

Frank,

Having a keen interest in history, this does sound like an interesting book. I still think you should read the SCOTUS's ruling, though.

Ted, isn't drab trendy these daze?

Oh yes, Kurt, drab is way in. Try #90948a!

On jeans/slacks, bras, automobiles; oh yes.

Cabinet officials - absolutely!

Ted, not to get off topic -- hell, yes, to get off topic -- how were your travels in the great white north? Any tales to tell?

This backs up my prediction that a lot of environmentalists would be very unhappy with the pick of Salazar - from NPR - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98347731 .

As for NPCA, they and the big NGOs play the game. That's how you play the game.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim, thanks for the link. This definitely will be an interesting story to watch unfold. It also will be interesting to see if the Senate asks him some tough questions during the confirmation hearings.

Kurt, not to get off topic, but I've never shown much aptitude for staying on-topic. I don't quite get it...

The pedestrian, tawdry - yea, drab truth of it is, the great white north still awaits. I was unexpectedly offered a great piece of work (carving trail through the temperate rain forest) at excellent money ... and then when the economy imploded and my friends went ashen in the face, I was offered additional trail-routes, at even better money.

The only reason I'm back home and playing on the computer is ... the great white north has come to us. Nearly a foot of snow on my route, and daily highs about 27° (the snickers, I know - but this is the dripping rain-forest!) so it ain't melting.

And, I got a jury-duty summons, starting April. So we'll see how the weather cooperates - has been very good up to last Friday, and usually snow is a passing thing around here: thus I'm not far from completion and more than ready to head out. I've told people I'd like to escape for awhile, and if I make good on the job for them, I'll be off with their blessings and more work waiting when I return.

So, maybe playing tourist in Fairbanks a bit after New Years. I'd hoped to photograph the sun-arc from Campus Drive on the 21st (mmm - yeah, the guy at Fairbanks BLM has a version posted), but perhaps that will wait.

Kurt, Just finished DC v Heller. Whew! Very long, and I only read the opinion of the Court and skipped the dissenting opinions.

The most important points are that it finds the Second Amendment protects an individual right and that "one should not expect it [the decision] to clarify the entire field". So, we might have to wait for concealed weapons to be banned on a national level before the court takes that one on. Interestingly enough, while "most" of the 19th century cases they reviewed upheld concealed weapons bans, they struck down prohibitions on carrying arms openly. Oh, another point that is relevant to the DOI rule change is the finding that people have a right to defend their homes. Now, can the definition of "home" also be extended to RVs, tents, and cars? I mean, if I live in my tent for 14 days, can't that be considered my home, albeit temporarily? I'm not a lawyer and haven't briefed cases since Con Law class, so I could be wrong legally, if not ethically.

Getting back to Frank C and Jim B's points earlier, I think there is a big difference between a "Moderate" like Salazar in this upcoming Obama Administration, and what we have seen previously. There is the possibility that Obama will generally support a pro-environmental stand, and therefore Salazar would lean in that direction. How many people in the upper levels of the Department of the Interior would be White House people, and how many slots would Salazar himself be able to select? That becomes critical in policy direction.

In the past Administration, VP Cheney had a thumb on the scale with everything going on there. The Obama administration will not have such a malign agenda.

On the other hand, Obama said next to nothing on the environment when he ran, except regarding global warming initiatives. He has questioned Yucca Mt. My understanding is he said next to nothing on the National Park Service, except continuing to take on the maintenance backlog.

I think what Obama is really focused on is a sense that the American people are disgusted by partisan, disfunctional government. I am guessing he sees the world very much as an urbanist, with experience in Hawaii, and in the third world.

I would guess Obama would want a reliable vote in Salazar's seat, perhaps more reliable than Salazar has been for the Democrats. My guess is he wants all political perspectives to think Obama will give their interest a fair shake, and for the American people to think he is balanced. Ending America's political disfunction is Job One. He may have calculated he wanted someone at Interior who had executive experience running a state natural resource department in the west, with experience working cooperatively with Developers. My guess is, on the big issues the White House will direct the overall perspective and Salazar would be the willing ambassador.

For all this to work, Mr. Obama would need to know he can get a (more) reliable senate democratic vote out of Colorado, and have Salazar on his team in Interior. This seems to me is consistent with how the President-elect is moving in all policy areas.

Re Frank C's response to my earlier post:

Ah, yes. This is the "go along, get along" philosophy of those in power in the NPS. Heave forbid we examine the voting record and actions of political appointees and make critical statements about them.

"Go along and get along" are vastly different.

I certainly wasn't suggesting we should "go along" with anything contrary to the best interests of parks, but I agree that for groups such as NPCA, it's important to try to "get along" with the new Secretary, until his or her actions require otherwise. If pro-park groups can't establish good communications - and a willing audience - with the Secretary and his staff, the opportunity to influence policy in the department will be greatly diminished.

As to critical statements about new political appointees, the above also applies. Those who feel there is a potential problem for the new Secretary based on previous voting records and actions should certainly be free to speak out - but they need to consider what they'll gain by doing so. I seriously doubt an "outcry" at this point will change the Obama team's choice for Secretary, so there's a trade-off between speaking out about past voting records as a matter of principle and starting out with an antagonistic relationship with the person who holds enormous power for good or bad in terms of our parks and other resources.

"the person who holds enormous power for good or bad in terms of our parks and other resources"

Concentrating power in one person, a monarchical tendency, defiles the basis of which our country was founded and for which revolutionaries gave their lives. We wouldn't want to antagonize the monarch, because he might punish us or we might loose his royal favor.

Concentrating power in one person, a monarchical tendency, defiles the basis of which our country was founded and for which revolutionaries gave their lives. We wouldn't want to antagonize the monarch, because he might punish us or we might loose his royal favor.

Frank C - I agree 100%. Unfortunately, that's tended to be the situation in recent years.

Only time will tell if that changes under the new regime. Even with the best leadership, I continue to believe that wisdom dictates you shouldn't kick the anthill unless it's your goal to break up the picnic.

DEAR FRANK C:

The issue in politics for you, for others, I submit, is being effective. That means either creating an advantage, or winning.

Otherwise, what is the point, other than shaking your fist at the sky or some other form of self-expression.

Otherwise, what is the point

Why, revolution of course.

To awaken people to the wool that has been pulled over their eyes.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security." --Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

Dear Frank C:

reading suggestion: Saul Alinsky. Either of his 2 books. He is not a fan of "awareness" per se. He believes in organization.

If there really is a basis to attack Salazar at this early point, and you are trying to make something happen, you need a narrative that would engage a lot of people. Usually in America, that means you usually need to be pretty pragmatic, because no time or specific activities from Salazar have been identified that could be used as a "hook" to drive a lot of people toward concerted action, or identification with an issue.

You don't need all the public, but you need a critical mass, and you need to be focused, as JimB seems to be saying. Americans have become inured to those they perceive as attacking for the sake of attacking, and the word of these people, even if right, gets quickly dismissed. That is what I meant by "shaking your fist at the sky." As Alinsky notes you need discipline and a coherant strategy if you want to remove wool from people's eyes.

Plus, the public at large seems to be very positive overall on Obama's behavior since the Election, and I think inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Dear d-2:

A Marxist? Really? "Alinsky's worldview was thoroughly steeped in the socialist left's collectivist, class-based doctrine of economic determinism." I have read The Communist Manifesto, have seen the failure of Marxism with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and feel no compunction to read more collectivist drivel. America was founded on individualism, not collectivism; collective "democracy" (read: the parasitic, transfer seeking economy, aka special interest politics) is what subverted our Republic. But thank you for the suggestion.

Here's a suggestion I'm sure you'll reject with equal disdain: Murray Rothbard.

Maybe Kurt could host a NPT book club. Shore would be interestin'. :)

Oh, and my attacks of Salazar are not attacks on him, per se. Rather, they criticize the system of political spoils and concentrated power in unelected officials.

UPDATE

I have done more research on Alinsky. Love his "5th Rule": "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage." Seems the opposite of what you've advocated, d-2.

Keep fightin' the good fight Frank with this statist, socialist, left-leanin' crowd of liberty hatin' government lovers.

Trees and saguaros don't need bureaucrats to survive.

A little sun, rain and private property works just fine.

Long live the works of Murray Rothbard!

Go on which yerself Frank!

Frank C: I agree with you on ridicule and Alinsky: ridicule is the weapon of the weak. I don't really think Alinsky was a Marxist or had any kind of belief structure, actually. It seemed to me his value as a political thinker was understanding the power of organization, rather than Movements. He had no use for Movements. Many liberals, environmentalists, and romantic right-wingers can become enthralled in Movements. Alinsky is not alone in this: on the left, right or in some more nuanced dimension inhabited by thinkers.

Alinsky has many flaws, chiefly among them the lack of faith in (or even understanding of) altrusism. What he really was, was a labor organizer, a street-level theoritician. I think he was more preoccupied with respect for powerless individuals and in power for the underclass, more than Freedom. He would probably have hated the comparison, but I think he shared Theodore Roosevelt's belief in Countervailing Power. At the time, the moneyed class would roll right over most every body else, unless the common people could have enough structure, and disciplined supporters to stop them.

I only bring it to your attention because I think JimB hit a nerve, in me at least. I think people who care about parks need to stop ranting, and learn to be effective. The thing I thought was useful about Alinsky in this, is his unsentimental belief in effectiveness. I think the tactics and preoccupations of the '30's do not fit in our world, but have useful lessons.

One similarity between the 1929 and our time is the gap between rich and everybody else, and the leverage extracted by private financial interests over everybody else. Including over parks and environment. It takes a pretty silly person not to see that the threat today to freedom and a healthy future comes much more from these private financial power centers than government, except to the extent that government serves these interests, not the majority.

As we have seen, this unbridled power even threatens the fools who exercise it. Witness the collapse of the economy, and the confused priorities and "solutions" of these financial elites. As far as Beamis' stuff is concerned, I think government can be a threat, but I think the majority needs to learn to be a force in keeping government civil, democratic and focused on a sustainable future. I find primitive freedom-loving emotionally appealing, but there is no freedom or future if there is no way to govern the greedy and powerful.

I find primitive freedom-loving emotionally appealing, but there is no freedom or future if there is no way to govern the greedy and powerful.

I'm not sure I understand what "primitive" freedom means but there is no entity more greedy or powerful than one which obtains its might through coerced non-voluntary extraction i.e. government, whose greed and appetite for ever more power knows no bounds. It is the kind of "primitive" greed and power that can wage an unjust and bloody war to the tune of 1 billion dollars a month (which compared to some of the recent federal boondoggles seems quaintly cheap at this point) by simply devaluing and debasing our currency and borrowing from foreign countries it has no intention of ever paying back.

It can give trillions to its buddies in the banking, insurance and mortgage business while letting its national parks and public lands wither on the vine. Come on d-2 don't you think that out of all of those trillions, that have been freshly printed out of thin air, that maybe a paltry few billion could have been scattered over your beloved national treasures? Where are their priorities? Are they just too busy governing the greedy? Is that it?

I don't know about the rest of you but there is nuthin' on God's great earth more greedy and destructively powerful than the U.S. federal gummit. As it takes us down the hole in the next couple of years you just might want to ponder my words and pray for the future of the national parks under the stewardship of those power mad & blood stained warlords who burrow together along the banks of the Potomac.

Frank C.,

Although I am as wary as anyone of the weaknesses & foibles of Government, I don't see any unusual crisis at the moment, and feel no unique urgency to respond to their depredations.

It's like the lions & zebras out on the Serengeti. The lions eat the zebras. Have, for quite a long time now. Is it unfair? One could say, I suppose. Is it tragic, when the mare zebra goes down, then her colt starves & dies too? Sure it is.

But is it the end of the world? Certainly not - in fact, it's how the world works ... and in fact, it does work, has for a very long time, conflict & tragedy & all.

The real problem with governments, is that they are "institutions". All institutions, formal and informal, show a related pattern of internally-arising malignancy. The self-limiting & destructive proclivities of institutionalization have been clearly displayed ever since hunter-gatherer groups coalesced into societies thousands of years ago. "Government" is nothing more than another example in a broad & familiar array of predatory institutional actors in society.

But we still have zebras ... and we still have human society.

Vigilance: it works for zebras, and it works for citizens.

Ted Clayton

Beamis,
Thanks for saying what I meant to say. You missed how government murders its citizens, but I'll cover that in a bit. I wanted to respond to d-2 that if he wants to "govern the greedy and the powerful", he needs to begin with the Federal Reserve, a pseudo-governmental cartel of bankers that operates above the law and without impunity. I was going to mention fractional reserve banking, a return to sound money, and returning to the rule of law through adherence to the Constitution, all of which government politicians sold out in 1913 and 1933, but I think your comment makes the point far more efficiently and effectively. My empirical mumbo jumbo would fall on deaf ears.

It's how the world works.

I'm reminded of Ludwig von Mises's motto, borrowed from Publius Vergilius Maro:

Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito. Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.

I'm not sure comparing natural selection to government is accurate. Take, for instance, the worldwide democide carried out by governments in the 20th century. Governments murdered almost 200,000,000 people in the last 100 years. This figure does not include those the state compelled to die in combat. Senseless. Evil.

And I think Alinsky embraces, rather than proceeds against, evil. After all, he dedicates "Rules for Radicals" to Lucifer, who Alinsky terms as the "first radical". "The most effective means are whatever will achieve the desired results." It took Alinsky 11 words to paraphrase Karl Marx's far more succinct "The ends justify the means." More evil.

I'm glad to have discovered Obama's mentor, though. It's been eye opening.

Back to the DOI. The Department has been rife with controversy. Oh, I'm sure some will put this all on Bush while failing to consider the BIA's multicentury screwing over of American Indians.

It's time to abolish the DOI and other agencies that have limited or no Constitutional authority. It's time to stop concentrating power in unelected bureaucrats. Enough with the czars! Our country was not to be ruled by emperors or autocrats. Returning to the Constitution and limiting government's power and scope is the only revolution that will protect everyone, not just the poor or the rich.