Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the federal government, is leaving the Cabinet and will return to private life in Colorado, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

Obama thanked Salazar for his "hard work and leadership" and said that he "helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water, and wildlife" in a statement released by the White House.

U.S. media outlets say that Salazar will leave his post as interior secretary in March.

During his four years heading the Department of the Interior, Salazar reorganized the supervision of oil exploration after the crude spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and also pushed for new regulations for exploiting hydrocarbons on federal lands.

In addition, he supported policies to develop renewable energy with an eye toward reducing U.S. dependence on petroleum.

Salazar was a U.S. Senator for Colorado before being tapped for Obama's Cabinet. EFE