1,400 gather for ‘Stand for Our Land’ rally against Interior Secretary’s policies in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The “Stand for Our Land” rally in downtown Steamboat Springs was filled with song, signs and rallying cries against the policies of U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.
Organizers estimated about 1,400 people attended the “Stand for Our Land” rally on the Routt County Courthouse lawn, which came together in response to Zinke’s visit to the Freedom Conference in Steamboat.
“(Zinke)’s attacking public input,” Cody Perry, one of the event’s organizers, told Steamboat Pilot & Today last month, explaining why he sought to rally. “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.”
From a flatbed trailer parked on Sixth Street, speakers explained the impact of public lands on agriculture, economy and recreation in Northwest Colorado.
Lyla June, a Din? poet and activist, asked everyone in the crowd younger than 10 years old to raise their hands. As children scattered through the crowd lifted their hands, she told them, “You are the ones we fight for.”
Wren Capra raised her hand. She carried a sign that read “I vote 2024.”
“I think public lands are important because this is where I’ve grown up, in public lands,” she said. “When they get taken away, my kids and everyone else’s kids can’t enjoy them like I did.”
Many protesters and speakers focused on the future.
“For her future, that’s definitely the reason I’m out here and for the land that we love,” said Jessica Olsen, as she watched her 18-month-old daughter Hazie toddle around the courthouse lawn. “I hope that she gets to continue to use it.”
Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan spoke with concern about talk of federal land transfers to states.
“I fear that if we actually start to see the transfer of public lands to say, Utah — the state of Utah — that we will set up an environment where we will have the Republic of Utah and the countries of Wyoming and Colorado and Montana,” Corrigan said. “That will further divide us. That will further balkanize us. That’s something that we absolutely have to avoid.”
He, along with Molly Cuffe, Smartwool’s director of global communications, emphasized the impact public lands have on economy. Routt County is home to more than 200 outdoor-oriented industries, Corrigan said. The outdoor recreation industry equates to more than 2 percent of the United State’s gross domestic process, Cuffe later added.
“That sounds like an economical powerhouse to me,” Cuffe said.
Colorado District 26 Representative Dylan Roberts said that the people gathered were there to hold Zinke accountable.
“I’m glad he decided to come and experience what Northwest Colorado is all about, and I’m glad that we are here to let him know that what he’s doing while he’s in Washington, D.C. is not acceptable,” said Roberts.
Jonah Lutz, a cattle rancher on Fletcher Ranch in North Routt County, described the beauty he saw in open spaces and the wildlife on the ranch.
“I can’t think that there are many of us in Routt County Colorado, regardless of political stripe or occupation, that don’t share this common awe and love,” he said. “This is what is primarily so offensive to me about what the Trump administration and Ryan Zinke as Secretary of Interior have done with places in our great western expanse, particularly Bear Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante.” He said these decisions seem short-sided and greedy, “smacking of cronyism and maybe even spite.”
Indigenous lands were another theme of the rally. Before introducing the first speaker, Perry told the crowd they were standing on ground that was once roamed by the Ute. When June stood up to deliver a benediction in Din?, she told the crowd that the Ute were called the nuche people. She sang protest songs in Din?, English and Spanish.
Enrique Maestas, a member of the Lipan Apache tribe and an instructor at Colorado Mountain College, closed the protest with a river song. He asked the crowd to laugh with him, using an Apache word for water, which sounds like “ha ha ha.”
“This is that fun, good feeling we get from water when it washes over us. This is how we say water, too,” he said, laughing afterward.
Construction of a new terminal at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been delayed at least until next year.