Salazar to step down as Interior secretary

Wednesday - 1/16/2013, 9:09am EST

Correction:An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of Interior Department employees. The correct number is 70,000.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will step down from his post at the end of March, according to a department spokesman.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Salazar was confirmed as the 50th secretary of the Interior when President Barack Obama came into office in January 2009.

Before joining the Obama administration, he represented Colorado in the Senate from 2005 to 2009. Prior to that, he served as the state's attorney general from 1999 to 2005.

"I want to thank Ken for his hard work and leadership on behalf of the American people," President Obama said in a statement issued Wednesday. "As the Secretary of the Interior, Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water, and wildlife. Ken has played an integral role in my Administration's successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources. In his work to promote renewable energy projects on our public lands and increase the development of oil and gas production, Ken has ensured that the Department's decisions are driven by the best science and promote the highest safety standards."

President Obama also praised Salazar for making "historic strides" in America's relationship with Indian Country.

"I have valued Ken's friendship since we both entered the Senate in 2005, and I look forward to receiving his counsel even after he returns to his home state of Colorado," Obama said.

"Colorado is and will always be my home," Salazar said in a statement released Wednesday. "I look forward to returning to my family and Colorado after eight years in Washington, D.C. I am forever grateful to President Obama for his friendship in the U.S. Senate and the opportunity he gave me to serve as a member of his cabinet during this historic presidency."

During his stint at Interior, Salazar implemented a reform agenda that included overhauling oversight of offshore oil and gas development, as well as establishing the country's first offshore wind leasing and permitting program, the statement said.

"Today, the largest solar energy projects in the world are under construction on America's public lands in the West, and we've issued the first leases for offshore wind in the Atlantic," Salazar said. "I am proud of the renewable energy revolution that we have launched."

Among his other achievements as secretary, Salazar pointed to the America's Great Outdoors program, through which the department established seven national parks and 10 national wildlife refuges.

"I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation's first Americans," Salazar said, in his statement.

He went on to thank Interior's 70,000-plus workforce for their dedication to the department's mission.

The Denver Post first broke the news of Salazar's departure this morning, reporting that after leaving office, he would return to his home and family in Colorado.

Check out Federal News Radio's Cabinet Tracker for a list of top administration officials coming and going in Obama's second term.