Action: Ken Salazar is the Wrong Choice at Interior

WWP Online Messenger # 145

Western Watersheds Project Asks Your Help to Stop the Appointment of Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.

You can read many reasons to oppose this appointment in a letter (included below) signed by WWP and other groups and sent today.

There may be a small window of opportunity left to change President-elect Obama’s mind on this unfortunate appointment, but it will take action by all of us before mid-morning tomorrow December 17, 2008 !

Please telephone or send an email or fax opposing this appointment and supporting Congressman Raul Grijalva for Secretary of the Interior ASAP.


John Podesta, Obama Transition Team Head
e-mail, Fax 202-682-1867

Greg Nelson - liaison to Mr. Podesta
e-mail, Fax 202-443-4724


or call the Transition Team :

202-540-3000, then dial 2

Thanks very much !

December 16, 2008


President-elect Barack Obama
Office of the President-elect
451 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004


Re: Scientist & Conservationist Opposition to Ken Salazar for Secretary of the Interior


Dear President-elect Obama:


We urge you not to appoint Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as Interior Secretary.


Over the past eight years, the Bush administration’s Interior Department has been riddled with corruption and sabotage of science. Just yesterday, an Inspector General’s report indicated that political interference with Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions went far beyond Julie MacDonald, who resigned amidst scandal last year. Indeed, many Interior officials, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national director, Dale Hall, have been involved in decisions leading to denial of protection to at-risk species.


The incoming Interior Secretary must address ESA enforcement with the highest dedication to science and to affording prompt protection to the many species in need in the U.S. Unfortunately, Sen. Salazar’s track record indicates, at best a lack of interest, and at worst, open hostility to ESA enforcement, particularly where species listings may impact agriculture.


While Colorado’s Attorney General, in 1999, Salazar threatened a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior if the Service listed the black-tailed prairie dog under the ESA. Rather than respecting the ESA’s requirement that listing decisions are to be based solely on science, Salazar and his co-authors complained about potential impacts “to its citizens” of protecting the prairie dog from extinction. Earlier this month, even the Bush administration admitted that the black-tailed prairie dog might require ESA protection.


While Colorado’s U.S. Senator, Salazar continued to be very clear that he would not back ESA listings if they affect agribusiness. But many of the state’s vanishing species, including the black-tailed prairie dog, mountain plover, Gunnison’s prairie dog, lesser prairie-chicken, and others, are threatened by agribusiness. Nationally, agriculture is a leading threat to imperiled plants and animals. We fear that they would remain unprotected under an Interior Secretary Salazar, given his deference to agriculture and his lack of zeal on ESA enforcement.


If appointed as Interior Secretary, Salazar would be the final word on ESA listings. Approximately 300 species await listing as formal candidates or species proposed for listing. The Bush administration has slowed the listing program down to a glacial pace, with only 8 species listings per year. We are hoping the incoming Interior Secretary will tackle this backlog of endangered but as yet unprotected species by seriously ramping up the listing program. We are not confident that Salazar possesses the will for this important work.


Also alarming is Salazar’s endorsement of fellow-Coloradan Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior while he was Attorney General of Colorado. Norton preceded him as Colorado’s Attorney General. We believe that Norton seriously set back science, conservation, and regulation of harmful land uses more than any Interior Secretary preceding her, except James Watt, her mentor. To be fair, it appears that the current Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, may have outdone Norton by overseeing the longest listing hiatus in ESA history, with more than two years passing between May 9, 2006 and May 15, 2008, during which time no U.S. species were listed.


Norton’s and Kempthorne’s abysmal legacies on ESA enforcement require an effective and enthusiastic incoming Interior Secretary who places science above politics and prioritizes federal environmental protections above accommodations for ecologically harmful industries. Sen. Salazar does not meet either test.




Jon Marvel
Executive Director
Western Watersheds Project
POB 1770
Hailey, ID 83333


Nicole J. Rosmarino
Wildlife Program Director
WildEarth Guardians
1536 Wynkoop St. Suite 302
Denver, CO 80202


Kieran Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity
POB 710
Tucson AZ 85702

Western Watersheds Project Is A West Regional Conservation Organization Working To Protect And Restore Western Watersheds And Wildlife

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