Days from Retiring, Interior Secretary Salazar Visits 5 Nat’l Monuments on Taxpayers' Dime

By Susan Jones | March 26, 2013 | 8:40 AM EDT

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who plans to leave his job at the end of March, plans to visit each of the five new national monuments designated Monday by President Obama. (AP File Photo)

( - At a time of tight budgets, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is spending taxpayers' money to travel from Delaware to Washington State and points in-between, to visit each of the five new national monuments designated by President Obama on Monday.

The latest travel flurry, which begins today, caps a busy few months for Salazar, who has visited at least nine states since January and is set to leave his job at the end of March.

It also comes after Salazar, on Feb. 25, warned that mandatory spending reductions under sequestration would result in shorter hours at National Park visitor centers, shorter seasons, and possible closures of campgrounds, hiking trails and other recreational areas as staffers face furloughs.

Under sequestration, the public "should expect reduced hours and services not only at America’s 398 national parks but also at the 561 national wildlife refuges and over 268 public land units," Salazar said last month.

But there appears to be no shortage of money in Salazar's travel budget.

Today (March 26), the Interior secretary will be in Delaware with Vice President Joe Biden and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, celebrating a newly designated national monument in New Castle that tells the story of early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlers in that former colony.

On Wednesday, March 27, Salazar and Jarvis will be on Maryland's Eastern Shore, celebrating the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.

On Saturday, March 30, the Interior Secretary is off to New Mexico, where he and Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Neil Kornze will celebrate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which contains stretches of the Rio Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise from the Taos Plateau. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities.

Next Monday, April 1, Salazar and Kornze will be in Washington State to celebrate the San Juan Islands National Monument, which is home to bald eagles, orca whales, harbor seals and other rare species.

The cross-country tour wraps up Tuesday, April 2 in Ohio, where Salazar and National Park Service Director Jarvis will visit the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce -- the home of Army Col. Charles Young, who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel.

“The monuments will help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history, as well as preserve natural resources for the enjoyment of generations to come,” said Salazar in a news release announcing his travel schedule. “The designations will serve as economic engines for the local communities through increased tourism and outdoor recreation…”

It's been a peripatetic 2013 for Salazar: According to the Interior Department's news release archive, Salazar has made at least a dozen trips, from one end of the country to the other, as follows:

-- March 20: New Orleans, La. (Salazar opens an oil-and-gas lease sale for the Central Gulf of Mexico.)

-- March 19, Everglades National Park, Fla.: (Salazar celebrates the completion of a one-mile bridge over the Tamiami Trail, the last structural component of a project to restore natural water flows to the Everglades.)

-- March 19: New York, NY: (Salazar announces that the Statue of Liberty is expected to reopen to visitors by July 4, 2013, following repairs forced by Superstorm Sandy).

-- March 14, 2013, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.: (Salazar celebrates a water rights settlement, and in a second stop, approves one of the first tribal regulations in the nation issued under the newly enacted Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH Act).

-- March 13, San Francisco, Calif. (Salazar announces approval of three major renewable energy projects.)

-- Feb. 26, Boston, Mass.: (Salazar speaks at offshore wind power conference in Boston, warning that the “potentially devastating impact of budget reductions under sequestration could slow our economy and hurt energy sector workers and businesses.”

Prior to sequestration:

-- Feb. 18, Commerce City, Colo. (Salazar joins other officials in announcing more than $1.7 million in new funding for the Rocky Mountain Greenway, which will help establish an uninterrupted trail and open space network in the Denver metropolitan area.)

-- Feb. 11, Pinnacles National Park, California: (Salazar marks the elevation of Pinnacles from a national monument to a national park.)

-- Feb. 10, Seattle, Washington: (Salazar launches a study of Asian American Pacific Islander stories, places and people.)

-- Jan. 25, Detroit, Mich.: (Salazar asks the National Park Service to conduct an internal review of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program to ensure that it is maximizing opportunities to use historic preservation to promote economic development and revitalization, especially in urban areas.)

-- Jan. 18, Phoenix, Ariz. (Salazar  announces that Interior has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development.)

-- Jan. 16, Washington, D.C. (Salazar announces that he will leave his job and return to Colorado by the end of March. NOTE: His current travel schedule extends into April.)

-- Jan. 11, Pelican Island, Fla. (Salazar celebrates the establishment of six new national wildlife refuge units during the past year and the renaming of a seventh.)