Barack Obama's top adviser on oil drilling and the management of America's last wide open spaces announced on Wednesday that he would leave the cabinet by March.

The departure of Ken Salazar as interior secretary leaves Obama with virtually a clean slate to remake his energy and environmental team. The only other original member of Obama's original green "dream team", the Nobel prize-winning energy secretary Steven Chu, is also expected to step down at the start of Obama's second term.

As interior secretary, Salazar had a complicated relationship with environmentalists. As the executor of Obama's all-encompassing energy strategy, Salazar angered activists by approving coal and oil projects on public lands in the west, and allowing Shell to being drilling in Arctic waters.

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