Julie Hagenbuch: Zinke’s words don’t match his actions | SteamboatToday.com
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Julie Hagenbuch: Zinke’s words don’t match his actions

Our Stand for Our Land” rally was a success in both numbers and message. While the majority was from Steamboat, there were people from throughout Colorado and the West. The message from the rally was positive, inspiring and energizing.

This week, I listened to 45 minutes of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s top of the gondola speech. While I found points of agreement, Zinke’s words don’t match his actions. Much of the information in Zinke’s talk was outright lies and distortion. 

Zinke has failed to engage those who have differing opinions, which include the 99 percent of public comments against reducing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase. Zinke even said it’s nice to have debate but purposely hasn’t had any.

How would he know what the people think when he has neglected to listen to the people of Utah and the West?

Zinke told the audience repeatedly that “we” — outdoor enthusiasts — did not want “them” to share access to public land. I and other outdoor enthusiasts have shared, shown and enjoyed public land with everyone they know. I was fortunate to have been introduced to them as a child and was educated on how to enjoy them safely in college and during my 30-plus years in Steamboat.

While I am physically unable to backpack to access remote wilderness areas of public land that in no way translates to anyone trying to keep me out of the wilderness. Tell me this Secretary Zinke: why did you take every single road out of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument? Pure government overreach to restrict access for recreation? To use taxpayer dollars to pave roads for mining and drilling companies?

Zinke claimed that he is opening up more areas to fishing, hunting and grazing in Grand Staircase Escalante. National Monuments have always been open to these activities. The new uses are mining and oil and gas. In fact, recent leases were sold to a Canadian mining company for $2 an acre. Once the land is disturbed, it cannot be put back. 

Zinke, you can’t say that you are against selling public land and then choose a plan to sell or “dispose” of 1,600 acres of unique beauty, most likely to Utah politicians. Only after public outcry did you relent but the rest of the crappy plan remains.

If removing dead and dying trees from the forest is a solution to our unbearable smoke and prevalent fires, let’s start with what can be accessed by existing roads. I keep wondering why destroying monuments and polluting the air have taken precedence over removing these trees. 

That Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is larger than Zion and Bryce National Parks combined was a talking point in Zinke’s speech. A national treasure cannot just be talked about in terms of size.

Grand Staircase is a huge area that contains spectacular slot canyons and fossils from previously unknown dinosaurs continue to be unearthed each year from areas recently cut from Grand Staircase.  There are also rare and unique species of plants that need protection. Grand Staircase has little light pollution and is one of the quietest places in the United States. 

Protection of our ancient history and preservation of our natural treasures are just some of the reasons I continue to fight for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. I believe that public land should be preserved for future generations, used for recreation with limited resource extraction. 

Extraction does not need happen on our most pristine lands. As Woody Guthrie said, “this land is our land” and does belong to the people of the United States.

Julie Hagenbuch

Steamboat Springs


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