Interview with the Secretary
Northwest Passage provided photography support for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's recent trip to Washington state.
During a rare quiet moment, the Secretary chatted about youth employment, renewable energy, and funny voicemail greetings...
interview and photos by Matt Christenson
Northwest Passage (NWP): First things first. Seattle Mariners or Portland Trailblazers? Or the Portland Timbers, our new soccer team?
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (KS): (Laughs) I think we'll go with the Portland Timbers.
NWP: Nice. They're my favorite, too. Okay, a little more substantive. I know your schedule is pretty relentless. But when you have downtime in the Pacific Northwest, is there anything in particular you like to do?
KS: What I'd really like to do is spend a lot more time out in the field. There are so many great places in Washington and Oregon. I've been to many of them. I've flown over them. Today we were above the San Juan Islands. And I'd really like to spend time on the Islands themselves. I'm planning on coming back to Washington in September and will be doing a number of activities including some river restoration efforts.
NWP: We'll be looking forward to it. In 2009, you established the Office of Youth in Natural Resources at the Department of the Interior. What's the best way the BLM can connect American youths with natural resources and their public lands? And what can they expect to get out of that experience?
KS: At the Interior and very much supported by the President, we have launched a major youth conservation corps initiative. We had 21,543 young people work with us in 2010. We expect to expand that (effort), and BLM is very much a part of it. The BLM has been a great participant in that effort, including here in the San Juan Islands where young people are signed up to work on the ground.
There are really two reasons why we (employ youths). One is that it helps us do our work. Workers come in and help carry out the mission of the agencies and the Department of the Interior. And secondly, it's a great way to teach young people and get them involved with conservation initiatives across the country. We have many conservation initiatives with the BLM that I'm very proud of.
NWP: And for the young people themselves, what might they expect to gain from this experience?
KS: Once people have experienced the outdoors, they love it. Whether it's hiking or biking or mountain climbing. Whatever it is, they grow attached to it. Sometimes their whole livelihood is determined by the experiences they get to have with the Department of the Interior and its agencies.
NWP: Definitely. You've also championed a renewable energy economy that reduces our dependency on foreign energy sources. How do you see the BLM moving forward in that direction, and what are some of the more promising sources of renewable energy available domestically?
KS: The President and I have been pushing very hard for a comprehensive energy program that includes conventional fuels such as oil and natural gas but also renewable energy. We're working very hard to harvest the power of the sun, geothermal, and wind. And the BLM is the point of the spear on that (development). Under the leadership of (BLM Director) Bob Abbey, Deputy Director (Mike) Pool, and the state directors across the country, we've launched a whole new renewable energy agenda.
I'd say to the people of this country that if you want to look at renewable energy and where we're going, you really have to see what the BLM has done. What we've done in renewable energy over the last two and one-half years has been a game-changing program.
NWP: My last question is pretty short. Since we've been taping this interview on my phone, would you mind recording a personalized voicemail greeting for me?
KS: Hi, this is Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Matt's busy right now protecting America's Great Outdoors. So please leave a message at the beep. Thank you.*
*To hear Secretary Ken Salazar's greeting, call Matt's voicemail at 503.808.6035