Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Choice for Interior, No Nos Gusta Salazar

Despite FDTate's hopes for Obama's environmental appointees in a post earlier this week, things aren't shaping up quite the way many of us would have hoped. In this morning's PEEK Newsletter from Alternet, there is a lengthy post by Robert Lovato entitled Proposed Interior Secretary Salazar: Obama's Most Controversial Cabinet Choice? This post on Alternet includes a statement by Kieran Suckling, Exec. Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, but if you check out the original entire post here (scroll down to the post), it is followed by more articles and references on the ill-advised nature of this appointment.

And then, this morning, I found an email fromStephen Capra, Exec. Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, in my inbox. It puts the case against Salazar quite succinctly and fairly (mentioning the short list of positive environmental votes in his recent record, as well as the many strikes against him). I'm actually going to enter the entire text of the email here, as I think those of us concerned about the future of our public lands and parks, not to mention the amazing wildlife they support, need to let the President-Elect, whom we worked our tails off to put into office, know this is not the direction we hope to see him take.

What follows is the text of Capra's notes to his organization's members:

Notes from the Executive Director

After eight long and tiring years of the Bush Administration’s relentless attacks on the environment, many people, myself included, were excited to think of change coming to the Department of Interior. Today, in a decision that can only be viewed as far from change or visionary, President-elect Obama chose Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, a fifth generation rancher from Colorado to run this crucial environmental department. In this position, Salazar will oversee the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and will control important rules such as the Endangered Species Act.

Salazar’s record is disappointing:

· He voted to end protections for offshore drilling.
· He voted to support subsidies for ranchers and other commercial users of our public lands.
· He fought efforts to protect endangered species.
· He worked to allow oil and gas drilling in the Roan Plateau in Colorado.
· He threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered.
· He voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil.
· He supported the appointment of former Interior Secretary Gail Norton, the key source of the agency’s problems today.
· If that was not enough, he also strongly supported the elevation of William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior Department Solicitor and long-time lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator Leahy called him “the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I have seen in 37 years.”
· He also voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the US automobile fleet.

In fairness, Salazar has voted to protect:
· The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
· He voted to stop the Bush Administration’s attempts at budget cuts on the environment.
· He voted to support Senator Bingaman’s amendment that would end taxpayer subsidies for road building in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
· He voted to support farm conservation measures.
· He voted to support the reform of the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for dam building and maintenance.
· He voted for renewable energy subsidies and research.
· He voted for wilderness bills in Colorado.

More than 150 conservation groups from across the country had strongly supported Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for the position of Interior Secretary. In a letter to the President-elect it was made very clear that Grijalva was a champion on conservation, wilderness and wildlife issues. He is clearly a leader with a vision. With the selection of Salazar, many are now wondering about the fate of species like the Mexican wolf or the Black-tailed prairie dog. Clearly, Salazar will be far better than what we have endured under the Bush Administration. Perhaps he will push hard to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - let’s hope so. Let’s also hope that morale at the Interior Department will improve.

Let’s hope that we have not lost some of the opportunity for creating more wilderness and for expanding our National Parks. Let’s hope that people will be better educated on the need for making our public lands a more balanced eco-system, ensuring that species like the grizzly bear, the Mexican wolf and Black-tailed prairie dogs have lands to thrive on and expand their range.

We need real vision on the environment; we need leaders that will push strongly for wilderness, wildlife and the real conservation they represent. This choice represents the status-quo. In fact, the oil and gas companies, the ranching community and mining interests are greatly relieved.

My hope is that Mr. Salazar will prove me wrong, and that he will pick the right team to make our parks, wildlife and wilderness areas thrive. For that reason, we will work and support his efforts, but today it feels like President-elect Obama missed a real opportunity.

You can trust that the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance will continue to fight hard not only for our public lands but for the wildlife that call them home. We will continue to demand real vision and support from our elected officials and will work to ensure your trust. Many thanks for your continued support!

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posted at 12:02:00 PM by marigolds2

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