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Interior Secretary Nominee Brings Western Experience

President-elect Obama’s apparent choice for Interior Secretary is being greeted with cautious praise from ranchers and miners, and just plain caution from green groups in the Northwest. 

Colorado Democratic Senator Ken Salazar has reportedly accepted Mr. Obama’s offer of Interior.  The post holds much sway over Northwest issues.  Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

SalazarThe Interior Secretary sets policy for national parks, drilling and grazing on public lands, tribal gambling, endangered species listings, and irrigation projects, to name just a few.

Ken Salazar comes from a pioneer ranching family.  The moderate Democrat from Colorado is in his first term in the U.S. Senate.

The director of the Northwest Mining Association, Laura Skaer, has known Salazar for nearly twenty years.

Laura Skaer: “We’re quite excited about his appointment to Interior because he understands the issues and our experience with him is that he’s very fair and he’s very balanced.”

Northwest hikers, bikers and paddlers know Salazar as the sponsor of a bill to repeal unpopular recreation fees on Forest Service and BLM lands.  The bill failed. 

Some grassroots environmental groups were hoping for a nominee with a stronger record of voting with them.

President elect Obama has nominated people for nearly all of his Cabinet posts now.  None of nominees hail from Northwest states. 

Senator Salazar would replace former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as Interior Secretary.