Barack Obama criticized -- again -- over pick of Ken Salazar as Interior secretary
Soon-to-be President Barack Obama is not off to a strong start as a friend of the environment, thanks to his choice of Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) as Interior secretary.
Or such is the belief among many conservationists, who were critical after Salazar was chosen to fill the post in mid-December, and again as he awaits Senate confirmation.
In anticipation of the confirmation hearing, WildEarth Guardians and more than 100 scientists and conservation groups today issued a group letter to Obama's transition team expressing their displeasure.
They cite Salazar's "hostility to Endangered Species Act enforcement and deference to agriculture in particular."
"Ken Salazar does not bring the change we need at Interior," stated WildEarth Guardians Spokeswoman Nicole Rosmarino. "Salazar will not take strong stances on behalf of science and environmental protection and is not up to the task of undoing the enormous damage the Bush administration has done to public lands, endangered species, and the credibility of the Department of the Interior over the last eight years."
The groups' letter cites as an example that Salazar, while serving as Colorado's attorney general in 1999, threatened a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act.
The groups contend that many of that state's vanishing species, which are threatened by agribusiness, would likely remain unprotected under Salazar as Interior secretary.
About 300 species await listing as formal candidates or species proposed for ESA listing. The Bush administration has been extremely slow to add to the list, and it is feared the backlog will grow under Salazar, who has the final word on listings.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Ken Salazar takes the stage after being introduced as a nominee for Interior secretary by President-elect Barack Obama in mid-December. Credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images