Interior chief Salazar's first year a gusher of controversy


He is virtually rewiring the DNA of a department once focused almost exclusively on fossil fuels by pushing it to develop renewable energy on millions of acres of public lands. He has instituted new ethics regulations; raised the profile of American Indian issues; and reined in the galloping oil and gas leasing that was the hallmark of the previous administration.

"Salazar is a larger figure than I would have expected," said Charles Wilkinson, a University of Colorado law professor and expert on the West's public lands. "You have to show you've got some spine, and he's done that."

…"I'm more at peace relative to my job than I have ever been," Salazar said. "I don't mind the fights, and I don't mind the controversies."

…But it is in the area of energy development where the interior secretary has gone most visibly on the offensive. Observers say he's linked a broad new agenda — renewable energy development — to an old one: a broadly conservationist view of public lands as a treasure to be preserved as much as a resource to be exploited.