Cody M. Perry: Why we stand
August 20, 2018
One week ago, the words "Our land" could be heard rising above the historic center of downtown Steamboat Springs. Well more than 1,000 people all gathered around a common value of our public lands. In Latin, public means "of the people," the commons, the places we all share that define our culture. You could see that camaraderie reflected in the crowd as a strong showing of people from all aspects of the Steamboat community and beyond assembled and stood together. When the event kicked off, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was busy pandering to the ideologically aligned special interests of energy lobbyists and affluent political donors.
Recently, we've learned a lot about Secretary Zinke. Mostly that he categorically ignores public input. For example, 99 percent of public comments received during President Trump's review of national monuments opposed any alteration to monument boundaries or designations. But rather than listen to the American public, he chose instead to pander to his well-heeled political donors and foreign-owned oil and gas and mining corporations by shrinking our national monuments and opening up these places to extractive industries. We've also learned that, like his boss President Trump, Secretary Zinke has a slim grip on truth and fact. Whether it's denying humans’ role in climate change, blaming wildfires on environmental terrorists, or his claims that public lands policies are hampering efforts at energy independence — Secretary Zinke, like Trump, clearly prefers rhetoric over truth.
As organizers of the “Stand for Our Land” rally, we made several attempts to request fair dialogue with the secretary about our diverse concerns, as did other leaders in our community, including our local elected officials, but to no avail. Zinke clearly has no interest in listening to any voices who might challenge his narrow perspective on public lands, unless it is with a military veteran who is quite literally ready to fight for energy. But if he thinks his agenda will go unchallenged, he's got another thing coming.
There are those who criticize the actions of Jesse Burcato and Sallie Holmes who spoke up at the Freedom Conference. However, it's clear that, if Zinke refuses to engage with the public and takes efforts to cut them out of the process, then the public will do what they can to have their voices heard. Secretary Zinke brought that on himself. An active, informed and engaged public holds all stewards of public lands accountable, as demonstrated by the brave and authentic voices of Burcato and Holmes. There are those who doubt the effectiveness of tactics such as interrupting a speech or assembling in the form of a protest rally. Think what you will, but I saw my community make national news and stand up, as our democracy demands us to, for the good of the people. Besides, you're all talking about it anyway.
Did Secretary Zinke get our message? I think his pointing fingers and red face shows us that he did. But, in the long run, Zinke is just another stooge — one that will soon be gone.
What's more important is that we got the message. There is a tremendous power in people unifying as one for our homeland and cultures; as Lyla June asked all the little ones present to raise their hands saying — we fight for you; as we do; as Burcato and Holmes and many others do. The immense pride I felt for my community far overwhelmed any negative energy from the secretary. I am certain that our tribe will always hold to each other and the places we call home.
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