WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that he plans to step down and return to Colorado, leaving another opening in President Obama’s Cabinet.
“Colorado is and will always be my home. I look forward to returning to my family and Colorado after eight years in Washington, D.C.,” Salazar said in a statement.
As Interior secretary, Salazar oversaw the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, among other agencies. He had previously served as Colorado’s attorney general and senator, before being unanimously confirmed as secretary by the Senate in 2009.
Salazar drew sharp criticism for his department’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, largely for his advocacy for a drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico after the disaster. But Salazar stands by his decision.
“Today, drilling activity in the gulf is surpassing levels seen before the spill, and our nation is on a promising path to energy independence,” he said.
Obama, in a statement, praised Salazar for his work on domestic oil and gas production, along with renewable energy. “Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water and wildlife,” the president said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also applauded the former Colorado senator, who served from 2005 to 2009. “I have never worked with a better steward of our nation’s precious natural resources than Ken Salazar,” he said in a statement.
A successor for Salazar is yet unknown. With some criticism arising after he nominated three white males to the most prominent open Cabinet positions, Obama may cast a wider net in his search for a new Interior chief.