Dylan Roberts: Show Zinke Colorado supports public lands
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is in Steamboat Springs this week to address an exclusive assembly of far-right conservatives and presumably to push the Trump administration’s anti-public lands agenda and extreme environmental policies. As an avid outdoorsman and advocate for Colorado’s open spaces and rivers, I am continually disappointed by Zinke’s record on public lands, but I am hopeful that while he’s here he can gain some perspective on why this issue is so critical to the people of Colorado.
Unfortunately, his track record thus far is not encouraging. This year, to aid President Donald Trump’s scheme to shrink national monuments like Bears Ears in Utah, Zinke ignored information from his staff and suppressed evidence that shrinking the size of monuments would put archaeological and cultural sites in jeopardy. He also turned a blind eye to the fact that national monuments support our country’s tourism economy, particularly in places like Colorado with stunning natural beauty.
Since being sworn in last year, Zinke has been neck-deep in scandal and controversy, and it is disheartening that he is coming to Steamboat for a fancy dinner rather than prioritizing his actual government responsibilities. He’s sought to keep the public in the dark about who he is meeting with on the taxpayers’ dime. Plus, there are already at least a dozen government investigations into Zinke’s actions as interior secretary.
When he is doing his actual job, Zinke has tried to put a muzzle on Interior Department officials who are sounding the alarm about the escalating impacts of climate change. Zinke even went so far as to summon the superintendent from Joshua Tree National Park to Washington, D.C. to rebuke him for circulating information to the public about the threat that climate change presents to our national parks.
But Zinke’s efforts to put a gag on climate science didn’t stop there. Last year, under his leadership the Interior rolled back policies that would have incorporated climate change and conservation into decisions pertaining to the management of public lands, wildlife and water.
Our community is still recovering from the wildfires that raged through our forests and endangered homes and families. There’s no denying the link between drought, wildfires and climate change.
Our rivers are also feeling the strain of climate change. Rafters are paddling on smaller rapids. Anglers, myself included, who want to get out on the river and fly-fish on their day off are casting in shallow waters hoping a fish will rise.
This year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife was forced to close off a portion of the Yampa River because the high water temperatures pose a threat to the trout. But Zinke believes climate change is “not proven science,” even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the evidence of climate change is overwhelming.
So my message to Zinke is simple: climate change is real. It’s happening. It’s threatening our outdoor economy and our livelihoods, and the Interior should be leading the efforts to increase climate preparedness, not preventing them.
Zinke’s policies that tilt toward special interests are completely out of line with Coloradans, and we have the data to prove it. According to a new poll from the Center for Western Priorities, 77 percent of Coloradans oppose shrinking national monuments — an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority.
While Zinke is in town to attend a cabal of far-right conservatives who are dead set on favoring special interests over hardworking Coloradans, I’d be happy to take him fly-fishing on the Yampa River or hiking in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area and show him around Routt County so he can see firsthand how much we cherish our public lands and what they mean to our Colorado way of life. Mr. Secretary, my number is 970-846-3054 — I’d be happy to talk.
At the legislature in Denver, I’m proud to be a voice for Coloradans in the fight to keep our public lands public and will be standing shoulder to shoulder with them at a “Stand For Our Land” rally this week to protect our land and livelihoods. I hope you will stand with us at the Routt County Courthouse lawn in downtown Steamboat Springs at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10.
Dylan Roberts serves as the state representative for House District 26 in Eagle and Routt counties.
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