Sunday, December 28, 2008

Public land debates in play over Interior appointment

In the Western states where 25-75% of the lands are managed by federal agencies, the Secretary of Interior is often seen as more powerful than governors. So, the appointment of Ken Salazar is a bigger deal for the region than you might gather from the national news media. But the New York Times ran a nice piece last week that I just read that helps lay out the tone and scale of the debate.

The National Mining Association is quoted as saying Salazar is "open-minded and can see at least two sides of an issue," and petroleum groups say he understands that an energy solution for the nation includes production from public lands.

Contrast that with newly elected Arizona state representative Daniel Patterson's (D-Tucson) comment that “Salazar has a disturbingly weak conservation record, particularly on energy development, global warming, endangered wildlife and protecting scientific integrity.”

The head of Center for Biological Diversity called Salazar, "a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species.”

This morning's Charlotte Observer published an interactive overview of all the Cabinet nominees, and they summarized Ken Salazar as "respected in Colorado by politicians of both parties for his measured approach and is praised as honest, particularly by environmentalists, but also business interests."

Mr. Salazar will have his hands full, balancing the laws that allow recreation and exploration and development of natural resources on public lands with growing demands and perceptions that public lands are off-limits and inherently wild.

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