President-elect Barack Obama has selected first-term Colorado
Sen. Ken Salazar to serve as secretary of the Department of the
Interior, a post that oversees 500 million acres of land, or about
a fifth of the country.
campaigned for Mr. Obama in Colorado, a swing state that went
Democratic in the presidential race.
According to the Denver Post, Salazar met with President-elect
Obama's transition team in Chicago in early December about the
Interior post and his nomination was pending a background check.
Salazar served as Colorado's attorney general from 1999 to 2004,
becoming the first Hispanic elected to a statewide office there.
In 1987, he accepted a post in Gov. Roy Romer's cabinet as chief
legal counsel. In 1990, Romer appointed him head of the state's
Department of Natural Resources. He practiced law in the private
sector for 11 years, focusing on water and environmental law.
He won his Senate seat 51 percent to 47 percent over Republican
Pete Coors, chairman of the Coors Brewing Company, in a race to
replace retiring Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
In the Senate, Salazar is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources,
Finance, Agriculture, Ethics, and Aging Committees. His work focused
on issues important to many Coloradans, including energy, agriculture
and the environment.
Salazar's nomination, however, could stir up a fight to fill his
seat. Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat, will appoint someone
to serve the remainder of his term, which is up in 2010.
"I have very mixed emotions," Ritter said in a statement.
"Ken Salazar has been an extremely effective United States
senator for Colorado these past four years, particularly as a
moderate and as a centrist. But if a nomination to join the Obama
administration comes to pass, Sen. Salazar would make an equally
outstanding Interior secretary for the country, for the West and
The Interior Department is charged with managing the National
Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological
Survey. The department also oversees oil and gas drilling, coal
mining and geothermal and hydro power on federally managed lands,
which accounts for about 30 percent of the nation's energy production.
Gale Norton, secretary of the interior under President George
W. Bush, was also from Colorado and served as the state's attorney
Salazar grew up as one of eight children in a Spanish-speaking
family on a ranch in Colorado that lacked electricity or a telephone.
His family has farmed or ranched in the state for five generations
and Salazar himself was a farmer for more than 30 years. Along
with his wife, he owned several small businesses.
He has a degree in political science from Colorado College and
a law degree from the University of Michigan.
Salazar and his wife, Hope, have two daughters.