Remarks to All Employees Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
Main Interior Building - Sidney Yates Auditorium
Tomorrow marks the one-hundredth day since President Obama took the oath of office.
Since that day, the temperatures have warmed up. The cherry blossoms have bloomed. A new season has arrived.
And here at the Department of the Interior, we have led the change promised to the American people.
Today, I want to talk briefly about what this Department has accomplished over the last 100 days. About the new energy frontier. About our agenda for America’s treasured landscapes. About expanding opportunities for youth.
More than anything, though, I wanted to just say thank you.
Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me to this proud Department.
Everywhere I have traveled in these first 100 days, I have learned from you.
I have learned of the places you protect on behalf of the American people. Of the people and the communities whose lives you make better through your service.
And I have met many of you in the places where you work: New York, at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; Denver and Dillingham, Alaska; Albuquerque and Atlantic City; New Orleans and North Dakota; Maryland and Montana; Sacramento and San Francisco; Anchorage and – yes - right here in Washington, DC.
The Department of the Interior is truly the Department of America.
It is so because our work touches land, water, and people in every corner of our country.
Everywhere I go, I want to hear from Interior employees: how can we better serve the American people? How can we serve as better stewards of our nation’s treasures?
For example, based on suggestions from my meeting of DOI employees in Lakewood, Colorado, I will make it easier for all 67,000 employees to communicate with me. We’ll have more meetings like this one today. But we’ll also make use of new media tools so that I can hear directly from you and you can hear directly from me.
Now, I know that transitions and changes are never easy. But thanks to your professionalism, expertise, and commitment to serving the American people we are off to a fast start.
Our first task has been to show the American people that the Department of the Interior is their department. From the parents of the junior ranger I met at Ellis Island to the tribal leaders I met in Alaska and the oil rig workers I met in Louisiana, every American must know that our doors are always open and that we are responsibly managing their resources.
That is why I hosted meetings around the country to talk about the future of the 1.7 billion acres the Department of the Interior oversees on the Outer Continental Shelf. When we listen and learn, we are better able to find common ground.
Openness and accountability are also why we have new ethics standards for all political appointees. Americans need to know that we are keeping their trust.
Science, too, is returning to its rightful place in this Department. It must be the foundation of the decisions we make, from the management of the gray wolf to our response to flooding in North Dakota.
Returning science to its rightful role is the reason that President Obama, on the 160th anniversary of the Department, came here to announce that he had restored the scientific consultation process under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
We are making progress in other important areas, as well.
First, this Department is leading the way in President Obama’s vision for our clean energy future. The lands and oceans we manage, with their vast unexplored renewable energy potential, are the new energy frontier.
Last week, we finalized the offshore renewable energy rule, which will open the gates for renewable energy development on the outer continental shelf. This Department oversees oceans that have staggering untapped potential for renewable energy, including wind power. In pursuing this unbridled energy source, we have the possibility of surpassing Denmark and other countries as the world’s leader in offshore wind production.
Onshore, we are opening new BLM renewable energy permitting offices to process applications for solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal development.
We are working with states, stakeholders, local communities, and other federal agencies to map out “renewable energy zones” around the country where we will give priority to large-scale renewable energy projects.
We will need to move this clean power from the new energy frontier to areas of high demand, so we are planning new transmission corridors that can be part of a national electrical supergrid.
As we build a comprehensive energy plan for our country, we must also continue to responsibly develop America’s oil, gas, and coal resources.
I was in New Orleans for Lease Sale 208 in the Central Gulf of Mexico. That auction attracted over $700 million high bids on over 1.9 million acres offshore.
Onshore, we’ve held 11 oil and gas lease sales in the last 100 days, offering 1.5 million acres of land for development.
We are also working to develop strategies to address climate change impacts from fossil fuel use. USGS, for example, recently developed a framework for assessing the best underground locations in the U.S. for storing carbon emissions from coal. This is just one of many ways that Interior will be a leader in finding climate change solutions for our country.
We have been busy on the new energy frontier, but we have also been busy protecting our nation’s treasured landscapes.
In moments when our national character is most tested – from the Civil War to the Great Depression – we rightly seek to protect that which fuels our spirit.
And that is what we are doing today.
First, President Obama’s economic recovery plan includes landmark investments in our national parks, public lands, and refuges. With the more than $3 billion that Interior is investing through the Recovery Act, we will create jobs and restore America’s timeless treasures.
Second, President Obama has signed an historic lands bill that puts into legislation the 26 million acre National Landscape Conservation System within the BLM, creates 2 million new acres of wilderness, designates more than 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and protects America’s treasures from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park to Oregon’s Mount Hood.
Third, President Obama has made a commitment to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund. $420 million is in the budget for next year, rising to $900 million a year by 2014.
Finally, we have pulled back several late actions from the previous Administration so that we can restore balance to the management of our public lands.
We revisited, for example, the decision to offer areas in Utah near Arches and Canyonlands national parks for oil and gas drilling.
And we are asking the courts to remand a rule from the previous Administration that allowed mountaintop coal mining operations to dump debris in streambeds.
In addition to our work on America’s treasured landscapes, we have a bold agenda for expanding opportunities for youth in the outdoors.
Today, I am announcing that we will be creating the Office of Youth in the Department of the Interior.
The purpose of the Office will be to build our programs, expand opportunities for young people, teach them to hunt and fish, and coordinate our efforts across the bureaus.
In Colorado, we created a similar Youth in Natural Resources program. Still today, I hear from the kids who went through that program – many tell me they would never have gone to college, let alone land a job in natural resource stewardship, if it were not for that program.
That is why the youth programs in this Department are so important for America’s future. We can and must do more to use our great landscapes as classrooms and as pathways to opportunity for America’s children of all backgrounds.
Our agenda also focuses on empowering America’s Native American communities.
This weekend, I was on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where we announced the $500 million in economic recovery investments we are making in Indian Country. These investments will make a real difference in Native American communities.
We will fix schools.
We will upgrade housing.
We will build new roads.
We will create new jobs.
And we will help strengthen law enforcement in Indian Country. The budget we will be releasing next week will put more officers on the streets, bolster tribal courts, and help fight violent crime and drug abuse.
We are also taking action to improve water infrastructure in Indian Country. Last month, for example, President Obama signed milestone legislation that settles long-standing Indian water rights cases. Because of that legislation, 80,000 members of the Navajo Nation will have access to clean, running water for the very first time.
We have been busy on our water agenda on other fronts, too.
In California, all hands are on deck to stretch limited water supplies and help farmers weather one of the worst drought situations in recent years. We are reengaging with the State of California as full partners in the task of modernizing a water system that was built half a century ago for a population half as large. And we have invested more than $260 million through the Recovery Act in California’s water infrastructure. It is a down payment on a secure water future for that state.
It is one of the many areas of the country in which we are working to rebuild water infrastructure and tackle long-standing water challenges for America.
Now, this isn’t a full list of all that this Department has accomplished in the first 100 days of the new Administration.
But I think it shows that we are off to a fast start in the right direction.
And next week, we will announce a budget that, with targeted increases in several areas will help us fulfill our agenda. This budget, which I believe all of you will be proud of, recognizes that this Department is central to the President’s vision for our country.
To be sure, the path ahead will be difficult. We will suffer setbacks. We will face hard choices.
But if we keep our doors open to the American people.
If we listen.
If we gather the best ideas, no matter where they come from.
And if we base our decisions on sound science and the public interest, then Americans will know we are serving them well.
They will know that we are managing their resources wisely. That we are full partners with Indian nations. And that the lands, waters, and resources we manage are in fact theirs and that Americans all have a stake in the stewardship of our great landscapes.
Thank you for your service.
Thank you for being a part of the Department of the Interior family.
And thank you for helping us bring about the change promised to the American people.