Pledges openness, high ethical standards and respect for scientific integrity
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ken Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan who served as the state's U.S. Senator, Attorney General and Director of Natural Resources, was confirmed today by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate to become the 50th Secretary of the Interior.
“I am honored to have been chosen for this position and look forward to working with President Obama on our nation's energy and natural resource challenges,” Salazar said. “I will be a strong and forceful advocate for the wise stewardship of our nation's land and water resources, I will help us build a clean energy economy for the twenty-first century, and I will work to restore the integrity of the nation-to-nation relationship with our Native American communities.”
“My first priority at Interior is to lead the Department with openness in decision-making, high ethical standards and respect for scientific integrity,” Salazar emphasized. “I will work for a more proactive and balanced stewardship to protect our national parks and open spaces, restore our Nation's rivers, resolve our water supply challenges and address the challenges faced by our Native American communities.”
Salazar called President Obama's energy imperative “our moon shot” for energy independence, saying “A national energy policy that includes conservation, expanded renewable sources and wise, responsible use of conventional fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, will create jobs here in America, protect our national security by reducing America's dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and confront the dangers of global warming.”
Salazar, who has vigorously advocated the expanded use of clean, renewable energy technologies, will oversee 500 million acres of public lands managed by Interior that include some of the nation's largest sources of wind, solar and geothermal energy. He will lead a Department with 67,000 employees and an annual budget of about $18.6 billion, including annual and permanent funding.
As a U.S. Senator, Salazar was a leader in creating and implementing a vision for a clean and renewable energy economy that is less dependent on foreign oil. He was involved in every major bipartisan legislative effort on energy since 2005, including helping craft the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. Salazar also tackled the challenge of providing affordable health care by fighting to broaden the Children's Health Insurance Program and by working to improve health care for older Americans.
He has been a champion for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, leading efforts to pass the 2007 Farm Bill to create food and fuel security for America. He worked to help veterans in rural communities get better access to health care by creating the Office of Rural Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs and by pressing that agency to open new rural outreach clinics in Colorado.
He also exercised a leadership role in defense and foreign policy, working to restore American security and influence around the world and pressing for a change in mission in Iraq to better advance America's national security interests. Salazar also helped to strengthen the U.S. military to ensure that we are able to confront emerging threats.
As Colorado's Attorney General from 1999 to 2004, Salazar led efforts to make communities safer, fight crime, strengthen the state's sex offender laws, address youth and family violence, enhance and enforce Colorado's consumer protection laws, combat fraud against the elderly, and protect Colorado's environment. He established the first-ever Colorado Attorney General Fugitive Prosecutions Unit to apprehend and prosecute fugitive murderers, the first-ever Attorney General Gang Prosecution Unit, and an Environmental Crimes Unit. He won statewide elections in 1998 and 2002, chaired the Conference of Western Attorneys General and received the Profiles in Courage award from his fellow state attorneys general for his dedication to preserving and promoting the rule of law.
Salazar served in the Cabinet of Governor Roy Romer from 1987 to 1994 as chief legal counsel and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, where he crafted reforms for oil, mining, and gas operations to better protect the environment and the public. He fought to uphold Colorado's interstate water compacts, created the Youth in Natural Resources program to educate thousands of young people about Colorado's natural resources, and authored the Colorado constitutional amendment creating Great Outdoors Colorado. He served as the first chairman of that movement, helping make it one of the most successful land conservation efforts in the United States.
After settling in New Mexico four centuries ago, Salazar's family planted roots in Colorado's San Luis Valley, where they have farmed and ranched the same land for five generations. Raised on a remote ranch without electricity or telephone, Salazar learned the values of hard work, family, and faith. Thanks to his parents' lessons, he and his seven brothers and sisters all became first generation college graduates.
A farmer for more than thirty years, Salazar was a partner with his family in El Rancho Salazar. He and his wife have owned and operated small businesses, including a Dairy Queen and radio stations in Pueblo and Denver. Salazar worked for eleven years as a water and environmental lawyer with some of the top firms in the West. During his time in the private sector and as Colorado's Attorney General, Salazar worked on cases from the trial courts to the Colorado and United States Supreme Courts.
He received his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981 and a political science degree from Colorado College in 1977. He also received honorary doctorates of law from Colorado College in 1993 and the University of Denver in 1999. Salazar and his wife, Hope, have two daughters, Melinda and Andrea, and one granddaughter, Mireya.
A biography of Secretary Salazar and his official image are available online at www.doi.gov.