6. Ken Salazar

U.S. Secretary of the Interior

Ken Salazar     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Oversees The wilderness

Whether you’re a natural-gas driller, a wilderness advocate,
or a grizzly bear, Ken Salazar holds all the cards. Since he took office in 2009, this 56-year-old fifth-generation Colorado rancher has been a high-plains poker player without a tell. He shut down drilling on controversial Utah lands close to Dinosaur National Monument, then opened up Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to coal mining. He slammed the debauched Mineral Management Service, then welcomed Shell to drill oil on the Arctic Shelf. He supported Bush-era policy to delist gray wolves, then attacked Congress for pushing to gut the Endangered Species Act. So is Salazar compromising away our environmental heritage—or is he the last lawman standing between the wilderness and the Tea Party? The verdict is still out, but this much is certain: he affects the lands where we play—and where companies extract—like nobody else.

By the Numbers 31: species the Department of the Interior agreed should be protected under the ESA but won’t be because of higher priorities

Second Opinion “Salazar has the heart of Stewart Udall but the middling-course political instincts of Bruce Babbitt,” says historian Douglas Brinkley. Still, Brinkley says, he’s “holding the line against the madhouse extraction mania that has gobbled up the Republican Party.”

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