Bill Friesell: Pilot & Today missed opportunity to cover issues important to Routt County |

Bill Friesell: Pilot & Today missed opportunity to cover issues important to Routt County

With the benefit of some time since the Zinke visit, a few thoughts …

The Steamboat Institute provided a great opportunity for respectful, informed dialogue on national policy issues extremely important to our community by bringing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to town. Unfortunately, this opportunity was diminished by divisive rhetoric/actions by some and biased information.

Attendees of the Stand For Our Land rally clearly appreciate our public lands and natural resources and their importance to our community and economy. Hats off to them for coming together to express that appreciation. They certainly made some points worthy of constructive dialogue.

Why, then, would some discourage such dialogue by name calling or divisively implying in a letter or editorial that “high-dollar” Freedom Conference participants don’t share these values? Nothing could be further from the truth. The conference was open to everyone and very affordable.

Attendees included ranchers, farmers, local business people, students, fishermen and women, hunters, hikers, mountain bikers and skiers. Some may differ on certain policy issues, but like rally attendees, we love our mountains, wildlife, lakes, rivers and streams and are dedicated to intelligent land use and conservation.

Bears Ears was a focal point of the Secretary’s critics. Reading the Pilot one might believe Bears Ears National Monument was created by Teddy Roosevelt, enjoyed as such for years by CMC students and Routt County residents, and is now being destroyed by Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration.

The other side…

In a highly controversial action, President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument just 23 days before President Trump’s inauguration. Restricting an area greater than twice the size of Rhode Island — much more than required — was a political move, a gift to radical environmentalists, over the strenuous objections of Utah’s legislators and governor.

The reduction from 1.4 million acres to 200,000-plus acres to comply with the Antiquities Act is not “taking our land.” It’s giving it back to the people.

Roughly 800,000 acres have been returned to wilderness and 300,000 acres to national forest, just as it was when people enjoyed it before 2017. Why never mentioned?

The Pilot appropriately covered the content and speakers at the two-hour rally with an extensive article. Why, then, was the coverage of the content and speakers at the two-and-a-half day Freedom Conference and Film Festival limited to one article about two rude, sponsored protestors misbehaving during Secretary Zinke’s keynote address?

And why did a former teacher at our local college celebrate this behavior in the Pilot? Shouldn’t he promote knowledge, dialogue and critical thinking skills, as opposed to the shouting down of ideas, opinions, and speech?

Freedom Conference topics and nationally prominent speakers provided extensive material worthy of sharing with the community. What a shame none was covered in the Pilot.

Why did the embarrassing article about the 30-minute interview with Secretary Zinke, a sitting Cabinet member, not do justice to the content expressed by the Secretary during the videotaped interview?

More importantly, why did the interview fail to address critical issues very important to residents of Routt County? Not one question was asked about mining, oil and gas drilling or related issues concerning jobs, energy independence and the environment. What a shame for those on all sides of these issues.

Important topics are subject to different legitimate opinions. Divisive rhetoric, biased information and shouting down respectful dialogue about such topics are counter-productive to finding solutions to complex issues. These tactics can also be detrimental to our freedom.

Let’s hope the next time our community and local paper are presented with such an opportunity it’s handled more constructively.

Bill Friesell

Steamboat Springs

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