Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to keynote Freedom Conference in Steamboat

Ryan Zinke
courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The embattled U.S. Secretary of the Interior who oversees agencies tasked with managing public lands will be the keynote speaker during The Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference this August in Steamboat Springs.

Ryan Zinke became Secretary of the Interior on March 1, 2017, and is a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

“The Department of Interior is so important,” said Jennifer Schubert-Akin, who co-founded The Steamboat Institute and its annual Freedom Conference event in 2008. “Decisions they make can have a big impact on people who live in this part of the country.”

The Steamboat Institute promotes conservative values as well as “America’s first principles and inspires active involvement in the defense of liberty,” according the the group’s website.

This will be the 10th anniversary of the Freedom Conference

“We’ve never had a sitting member of the Cabinet before,” Schubert-Akin said.

Past keynote speakers during the Freedom Conference have included Vice-President Dick Cheney, Carly Fiorina, Steve Forbes, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove.

“We try to get people who are influential, who are on the national stage, who help set policy,” Schubert-Akin said.

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, has been criticized for tax dollars spent on his travel that some do not believe was related to his job as Secretary of the Interior. Schubert-Akin said The Steamboat Institute pays the travel expenses for all of the conference’s speakers, including Zinke, who will not be paid a fee for speaking.

“We would never pay a current member of administration a speaking fee,” Schubert-Akin said.

Zinke also has come under fire for policy changes that undid land use policies established by President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Since he has been at the Interior Department, he has opened up many of our public lands to oil and gas companies,” Colorado State Rep. Dylan Roberts said. “I think those decisions and policies are completely out of line with Coloradans and a majority of Americans.”

Roberts, a Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties in House District 26, spent this past weekend attending events for Public Lands Day and he said he is very concerned about what is happening at the Department of Interior under Zinke.

“Would love to hear what he has to say about Colorado’s open space,” Roberts said. “If he wants to go fly fishing on the Yampa for a little bit or go for a hike in the Zirkels, I would love to show him around Routt County.”

Before going into politics, Zinke had a 23-year career as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer.

According to the Department of Interior website, Zinke earned a geology degree from the University of Oregon, where he was an All-PAC 10 football player. He also has a master’s degree in business finance from National University and a master’s degree in global leadership from the University of San Diego.

Zinke has been to Steamboat at least once before. Schubert-Akin said he was one of the speakers during the day-long foreign policy summit hosted by The Steamboat Institute in 2016.

Zinke will speak during the first evening of the Aug. 10 and 11 Freedom Conference, which costs $325 to attend.

“We also have many other great speakers,” Schubert-Akin said.

More information can be found at

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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