January 17th, 2013 by

As Washington hurriedly prepares for the glitz and glamour of swearing in President Obama on Monday for a second term, the president’s administration is dealing with a flurry of cabinet openings.

Greg Neudecker and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employee and 2011 Recovery Champion Award-winner Greg Neudecker (left) and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (right) in Montana’s Crown of the Continent. Credit: USFWS

Yesterday, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he would be leaving his post by the end of March to “return to his home state of Colorado.” Many in the conservation community are sad to see him go, as he’s been a strong leader, dedicated to working with a broad coalition of parties on energy, conservation and other issues.

In honor of Secretary Salazar, let’s take a quick spin through some of the 10 wildlife refuges and seven national parks that came to life under his reign, preserving their ecosystems into the future.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
Just last week, Hackmatack became Secretary Salazar’s 10th wildlife refuge. As stated by Governor Pat Quinn in the announcement of the new refuge, “The establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge will help keep open spaces, including wetlands and grasslands, within easy reach of millions of people living in largely urban areas of Chicagoland and northeast Illinois. … Hackmatack will provide a way to connect children, families and all urban and suburban residents to nature and wildlife.”

Pinnacles National Park, California
A national monument since 1908 thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt, Pinnacles is filled with monoliths, spires, caves and canyons, and earlier this month, it became the 59th national park. It is also home to 400 species of native bees and is a key release point for the endangered California condor. With the monument’s elevation to a national park also came the designation of 16,000 acres of the new park’s land as a wilderness area, Hain Wilderness.

Condor release site in Pinnacles National Park

Condor release site in Pinnacles National Park. Credit: dotpolka/Flickr

Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, New Mexico
This fall, Valle de Oro became the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest and one of only a handful of urban wildlife refuges in the country. Nearby, Rio Mora was created to preserve habitat for threatened and endangered species like the southwestern flycatcher and Mexican spotted owl. It also protects the Rio Mora watershed alongside another Secretary Salazar-overseen refuge, Sangre de Christo Conservation Area in Colorado. For more on these refuges, read our post on their establishment.

The Everglades, Florida
Yes, the Everglades have been a national park for a while now — since 1934 to be exact — but Secretary Salazar did a lot of significant work there during his time at the DOI. The Palm Beach Post reports that he once admitted “that of all the thousands of federal projects and programs, he spends the most time on Everglades restoration.” In 2011, this resulted in a new wildlife refuge, Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, which American Forests supported the creation of and submitted comments to the DOI on.

We wish Secretary Salazar well, as his positive contributions at DOI will be felt for years and — in terms of the refuges and parks created — generations to come.