Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama Chooses Interior, Agriculture Secretaries Salazar gets zero percent approval from HSUS. While President-elect Barack Obama's choices for secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture may appear to support his commitment to alternative energy, they seem not to on their support for animals. Despite a letter from The Humane Society of the United States to the President-elect, urging him to consider animal issues when filling his Cabinet posts, Obama has chosen a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus for his Interior secretary. Mass-media reports reveal that Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar may be fine from an environmental standpoint. The department oversees national parks and other large swaths of public land, setting policy for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction. Earlier this year, Salazar criticized the department under President George W. Bush for decisions to open Colorado's picturesque Roan Plateau for drilling. But upon deeper investigation, that's not the case. The Center for Biological Diversity called him a "disappointing choice for Secretary of the Interior." Salazar: ∙ voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S. automobile fleet ∙ voted to allow offshore oil drilling along Florida's coast ∙ voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming impacts in their water development projects ∙ voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil ∙ voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public forest and range lands ∙ threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered ∙ fought efforts to increase protection for endangered species and the environment in the Farm Bill When it comes to animals, Salazar is no better. He's a hunter, a hobby that likely helped him garner the appointment. The US Department of the Interior manages national parks and national wildlife refuges. They decide whether to allow hunting on those lands, so advocating "access for sportsmen and hunters" will mean that more lands in national parks and national wildlife refuges will be open for hunting. Hunting in a wildlife refuge seems like a contradiction, but this is what the hunters have been fighting for, and unfortunately, Obama seems to be on their side. Salazar scored 0% on the Humane Society's Legislative Fund scorecard during January 2005 to December 2006. He scored 50% for January 2007 to December 2008, neglecting to vote with the animals on horse slaughter, downed animals and Class B dealers. Unlike Salazar, Obama's choice for Agriculture secretary seems to be a relatively animal-friendly one. In fact, the Humane Society's political arm backed former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack when his name was on the short list. Vilsack, for example, has a solid record on animal protection. As chief executive, he didn't address the most complex issues such as the massive pollution from hog factory farms, but he advocated for bills to toughen the state's penalties for animal fighting, and he stood up to the hunting lobby and vetoed legislation that would have allowed the target shooting of mourning doves for the first time in decades. Like Salazar, Vilsack appears to also be a proponent of the environment -- although I don't know that ethanol and biofuels, which he supports, are all they're cracked up to be. But an opinion piece he wrote in October shows that he's aligned with Obama's vision. American agriculture and renewable energy, produced on American farms, hold the key to increasing carbon productivity. The manufacturing base required to support this growing rural industry will create more than 5 million new and better-paying jobs that will enable us to better support our families and communities. We must go beyond drilling and the destructive energy extraction of the past to apply the latest technologies in conservation and sustainable management. But, according to an NPR report I heard on my way to work this morning, advocates of organic foods take issue with his post at Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute, where he analyzed the risks and benefits of genetically modified plant and animal products. Only time will tell how well Salazar and Vilsack advocate on behalf of the environment -- as well as animals Posted by Tracy H. on Digging Through The Dirt Blogspot.

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