Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican from Utah and the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been in the news a lot this past year. He sought to investigate government misconduct in the past administration including the State Department and the now famous Clinton email servers. Now, he is being asked to look into Russian influence on the presidential electoral process as well as in the conduct of the current administration.
There is another story however that appears just as much of immediate concern that deals with a bill he introduced that mandates the sale of more than 3 million acres of federally-protected land to private buyers. After much public pressure he killed the bill, the repeated effort over the years to do this points out how vulnerable the American West is to the potential pillage of its pristine lands and the effacing of their beauty and heritage.
Chaffetz’ story brought to mine the Ken Salazar yard signs that were part of his successful run for the United States Senate in 2004 and before. Under his name, the campaign logo included the slogan: “Fighting for Colorado land, water, and people.”
Those 7 words represent the essence of a commitment to a heritage that has no equality in the beauty of the land and the beauty in the hearts of a people. The campaign sign is not only the creation of politically sensitive thinking, but also comes from a long history of a family that came into this landscape and became an integral part of it.
Ken Salazar’s family arrived in New Mexico in time to help build Santa Fe. Their ancestor, Juan de Salazar had been in the New World since 1543.
The Salazar family was among the first to colonize Colorado. By 1860, it was well established in Los Rincones, a community that is part of the San Luis Valley located in south-central Colorado.
Reared in a ranch environment and its values, Salazar has proven his metal as a guardian of what is important for Colorado and America. He burst on the scene in 1986 as legal council to Governor Romer and later as his Director of the Department of Natural Resources.
This proved to be only a prelude to his successful election and reelection as Colorado Attorney General, his election as a U.S. Senator and his appointment and tenure as the 50th United States Secretary of the Interior. Throughout his career Ken Salazar has actively sought to bring political opponents together to forge a common approach to solving the state and country’s challenges.
Nominations are now open for Colorado Governor and there will be a list of candidates coming to offer their services. As we review the list, we must remember that we are living in a very divided country that cries out for a special leadership that inspires people to face the problems of our complex democracy together rather than against one another.
Colorado is basically a purple state that does not cotton to demagogues of the extreme right or left. It seeks common sense solutions to human problems that we face as a society without the need to put them in an ideological box.
Colorado also needs political leaders that think beyond their partisanship to advance the best solutions and leave it to the people to decide who is advantaged by that success. Ken Salazar is that kind of leader and can be timely for our state.