Kenneth Lee "Ken" Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan, was confirmed as the 50th secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on Jan. 20, 2009, in a unanimous vote by the U.S. Senate. A man of the West, he was born in Alamosa, Colorado. His family farmed and ranched land in the San Luis Valley and is the descendent of Spanish settlers who arrived in the American Southwest in the 1500s.
In 1987, he accepted a post in Gov. Roy Romer's cabinet as chief legal counsel. In 1990, Romer appointed him head of the state's Department of Natural Resources. He fought to uphold Colorado's interstate water compacts, created the Youth in Natural Resources program to educate thousands of young people about Colorado's natural resources, and authored the Colorado constitutional amendment creating Great Outdoors Colorado. He served as the first chairman of that movement, helping make it one of the most successful land conservation efforts in the United States. Before serving as Romer's chief legal counsel, Salazar worked for 11 years as a water and environmental lawyer with some of the top firms in the West.
At the time of Salazar's nomination, Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, said, "As a westerner, Senator Salazar has hands on experience with land and water issues, and will restore the Department of the Interior's role as the steward of America's public resources. We look forward to working with him to protect the health of America's land, water, and people in the coming years."
A number of Reclamation projects have been authorized during Ken Salazar's tenure as Secretary of the Interior.. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made millions of federal dollars available to a variety of projects that directly affect life in Arizona, among them:
- $107 million to repair water infrastructure and help address the country's long term water supply challenges in the Lower Colorado region.
- $1.8 million to improve water conservation in Arizona
- $2.5 million for Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program projects
- $27.74 million to the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority for the construction of Reaches 2 through 6 of the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline
- $2.86 million to replace or repair the concrete lining, various gate structures and siphons on channels near Yuma, Ariz., that carry agricultural return drainage flows from Gila Valley farmland to the Colorado River or its tributaries.
In October of 2010, Salazar also announced that the University of Arizona will head new the Southwest Climate Science Center (CSC). The CSC will provide the science needed to understand which resources are most vulnerable to climate change and will work closely with natural and cultural resource managers faced with planning for those changes.