Opponents plan ‘Stand For Our Land’ rally to protest Ryan Zinke, policies
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Steamboat Grand, opponents to his policies will gather on The Routt County Courthouse lawn in downtown Steamboat Springs for a “Stand For Our Land” rally.
Zinke, the cabinet official who oversees management decisions on most federal public lands, is speaking at The Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference on Aug. 10.
Cody Perry, one of the rally’s organizers, sees Zinke’s visit is an opportunity to show Zinke the values of the Steamboat Springs community. Perry also explained some of the reasons he decided to work to organize a protest.
“It feels personal,” he said.
Perry taught classes at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs in the outdoor education program. He saw his students develop personal relationships with the area that became Bears Ears National Monument. In December 2017, the U.S. Interior Department decided to reduce the area included in the monument by more than 80 percent.
“(Zinke)’s attacking public input,” Perry said. “He’s attacked our national monuments. He’s putting emphasis on extractive industries like oil and gas and allowing them to get around rules like the methane rule, and he’s attacking the Land (and) Water Conservation Fund.”
Perry is also angered by Zinke’s “flippant disregard” for the efforts indigenous peoples to gain increased protections for ancestral lands.
The Steamboat Institute’s CEO Jennifer Schubert-Akin said she’s glad that people are organizing.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that people are exercising their free speech right,” she said. “I have no problem with any group that wants to put together a peaceful rally to express their points of view. I mean, that’s the American way. Whether they agree with Secretary Zinke’s positions or not, it’s really kind of beside the point. It’s the fact that you have citizens who care enough to express their views at a peaceful rally.”
Schubert-Akin said the rally shouldn’t impact plans and security at the Freedom Conference. She said she’s also likely to have friends at the rally.
“One of the great things about Steamboat is I probably know and am friends with some of the people going to the rally that may disagree with positions that are expressed by Secretary Zinke and other speakers at our Freedom Conference, but at the end of the day, we all respect each other and we all get along,” she added.
Several speakers are expected to address the rally, including leaders in agriculture, outdoor recreation, environmental awareness and climate change.
“We want to have speakers and some other folks from outside the community to express the values that are reflected by our community,” Perry said.
Routt County organizations have already shown support, Perry said. Rally organizers are seeking more support from area groups, business and nonprofits.
There will also be live music, community participation and voter registration opportunities. Organizers are encouraging participants to bring signs “highlighting what public lands mean to them.”
Perry expects the rally to be on the same scale as Steamboat’s Women’s March, which brought out an estimated 1,000 people to protest.
“This is the only place the Secretary is coming to in Colorado,” he said. “We’re leading a grassroots community response to that, but believe me, people around the West, let alone the entire state of Colorado, are aware of it and will likely be coming up here.”
Perry encouraged others to learn more about the Stand For Our Land rally at the event’s Facebook page.
“This is community wide,” Perry said. “I don’t care what partisan nature you subscribe to. I don’t care what sector of the community you come from. This is about recognizing a shared value and a shared stewardship about the place that we call home.”
Tickets are still available to the Freedom Conference and the associated film festival. Zinke will speak at the conference on Friday, Aug. 10. The Stand For Our Land rally will gather at 5:30 p.m. on the same day on the courthouse lawn.
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