President-Elect Barack Obama has tapped Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) for the top post at the Interior Dept. The nomination, announced Dec. 17, has been well received by both industry and environmental groups, who describe the candidate as a centrist consensus builder.

“He’s a good pick,” says Steve Hall, vice president of government affairs for the American Council of Engineering Companies. “He’s built a good reputation in the Senate as a consensus builder who listens to both sides…We can work with him.” he says.

Ralph Grossi, the immediate past president of the American Farmland Trust, says Salazar did “yeoman’s work” in “building bridges between the ranching and conservation communities” during the 1990s to develop a farm and ranch land protection program in Colorado.

Environmental groups praise Salazar for his support of renewable and alternative energy sources. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says, “Salazar has demonstrated leadership in Congress as a supporter of clean, renewable energy, as opposed to unsustainable, destructive energy sources. “

Salazar was elected to the Senate in Nov., 2004 and sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In the Senate, he towed a centrist, moderate line. He criticized the Interior Dept.’s decision earlier this year to open up the protected Roan Plateau in Colorado for drilling, but is also reportedly open to off-shore drilling. Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D- N.M.) calls Salazar a “superb” choice and says, “He understands how to manage federal lands and resources and knows the importance of working with stakeholders while protecting the public interest.”