This past Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spoke in front of a group of interns and students as part of the 21st Century Democrats’ Youth Leadership Speaker Series.
“It’s an exciting job that I have,” Salazar said about being the Secretary of the Interior. Salazar outlined five pillars in his plan to lead the Interior Department toward environmental and social progress by respecting and making the most of our nation’s natural resources.
The five pillars:
- Renewable Energy and Environmental Protection
- Connecting Young People with the Outdoors
- Reviving the National Parks
- Protecting Natural Water Sources
- Supporting Native American Tribes
1. Renewable Energy and Environmental Protection — Secretary Salazar has not been shy about dismantling Bush-era energy policies that threatened our national parks, American natural life, and the environment as a whole. He promoted the use of solar panels on federal lands as a source of energy that could replace many of the coal-burning plants that are currently powering the infrastructure on our federal lands. By December 2010, Salazar hopes to have install enough solar panels on federal lands to replace at least 10 coal-burning plants.
2. Connecting Young People with the Outdoors — Secretary Salazar made it clear that it will be “part of this Administration’s legacy” to bring young people out of their homes and into the natural world. Visiting national parks, riding on bike trails, and hiking through the wilderness should not be just the activities of the past, but pursuits of the current youth generation.
3. Reviving the National Parks — Repairing the infrastructure of and boosting interest in the national parks go hand-in-hand with the second objective of getting kids outside. Our national parks are one of our greatest resources. providing an opportunity to learn, connect with nature, and even get some exercise. The Bush Administration was more concerned with exploiting natural resources–such as oil and coal–from our federal lands, than updating the infrastructure of those same lands to make them more accessible to the American people. Pillars 2 and 3 work together to bring the American people closer to nature so that they will see nature as a good in itself, not just a means for fossil fuels.
4. Protecting Natural Water Sources – The American people take our environment for granted: from national parks to breathable air to drinkable water. Secretary Salazar made it clear that his plans for the Interior Department included protecting American waters, from lakes, rivers, and tributaries inside our borders to the ocean above the continental shelf outside of them.
5. Supporting Native American Tribes — “The last administration… ignored the Native American population,” said Secretary Salazar. “The assistant [Interior Department] secretary for Native American affairs had been vacant for 3 years.” Salazar and President Obama have shown that they are serious about repairing relations between the federal government and our Native American population. About a week before Salazar spoke in the Youth Leadership Speaker Series, President Obama held a day-long event with Native American tribal leaders from across the nation. He and Salazar are serious about continuing these conferences every year and bridging the gap between Native American tribes and the United States government.
President Obama and Secretary Salazar know that it’s time to get serious and clean up the Bush Administration’s mess–both figuratively and literally. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done. It’s our job to make sure that Obama and Salazar have the progressive support they need to undo the environmental and social damage done in the past decades of (mostly) Republican administrations.
21st Century Democrats is keeping the ball rolling through our Youth Leadership Speaker Series and field organizer training sessions. Help us build the progressive “farm team” of the Democratic Party who will repair the damages of the past and bring our country into the future.