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Ken Salazar under fire from energy producers and horse lovers

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You just can't please some people, especially if you happen to be the Secretary of the Interior. Sure, the job has some neat perks--all those trips to national parks and press conferences at glaciers and other cool stuff. But there's no way to manage what amounts to one-fifth of the land mass of the country, teeming with resources that throngs of competing interests want to protect or exploit, and not feel like the fall guy getting the whipsaw-and-turnbuckle treatment in a tag-team wrestling match.

The Bush administration simplified the process by embracing its core constituency--the oil and gas industry--while ignoring everyone else. But Obama's point man, Ken Salazar, has vowed to restore "balance" to Interior while still offering the energy producers "a place at the table." So naturally this holiday season he's getting an earful from all sides, from unhappy drillers to wild horse advocates.

This week Salazar lashed out at energy industry trade groups, claiming they were spreading "poison" about the administration's energy policies. The unusual broadside from Secretary Consensus Builder apparently was triggered by persistent criticism of his decision to halt some controversial eleventh-hour Bush drilling leases and subject others to extensive review. Groups such as the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States have claimed that the lease decisions were politically motivated.

At the same time, Salazar is facing increasing heat from horse advocates over his ambitious plan to create new refuges for embattled mustangs back East, far from their native (and dwindling) range. Some groups think this is daft--check out the moratorium letter posted on the Cloud Foundation website--and even those that think it might be a good idea question the DOI's miserable track record in managing the herds.

Here, for instance, is a recent blast from the Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle, who supports the relocation plan but condemns the continuing roundups of wild horses, which have resulted in deaths and injuries--and stuck more wild mustangs in captivity than there are actually roaming the range.

Pressure and spluttering outrage from various industry and environmental groups is nothing new at Interior, of course. But it takes someone with Salazar's sense of balance to get drubbed evenly from all sides at once.

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