Regardless of how much I’d love to post nonstop field reports on well-earned harvests at this time of year, we should really take a break now and then to discuss the world beyond the woods. President-elect Obama’s selection of U.S. Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado as his Secretary of the Interior seems like one of those times. 20081215__kensalazar5p1_200

Salazar is a controversial choice. According to this New York Times story, his record drew, “mixed reviews from environmental groups on Wednesday, but cautious praise from energy and mining interests.”

On one side are executives such as Marc Smith of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, who said in a statement, “We are pleased that the president-elect has chosen someone who understands that there is a direct connection between federal lands and access to affordable, clean natural gas.”

On the other side are opinions such as that of Daniel R. Patterson, a former official of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, who is now southwest regional director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Patterson stated that, “Salazar has a disturbingly weak conservation record, particularly on energy development, global warming, endangered wildlife and protecting scientific integrity.”

Wearing his usual ten-gallon hat during Wednesday’s news conference, Salazar said that his job would include not just the development of green energy like wind, the Times story said, but also, “the continued domestic development of coal, oil and natural gas, [and] fossil fuels that generate heat-trapping gases when they are burned.”

It’s a fine line between energy development and habitat protection, and I can only hope the most talented, experienced, well-informed and forward-thinking candidate has been chosen to walk it. -K.H.