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Protester Confronts Zinke On Climate Change, He Snaps: ‘You Haven’t Served’

A protester challenged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over his failure to recognize the danger of climate change at a Colorado right-wing conference, and he inexplicably blasted her for not “serving.” It wasn’t clear if he meant serving in the government, or the military.

The confrontation occurred Friday in Steamboat Springs at the Freedom Conference, which features “leading conservative thought and policy leaders.”

Local protester Sallie Holmes stood up from her table among the dining crowd during Zinke’s speech, calling out: “Secretary Zinke, why won’t you acknowledged that climate change is causing and accelerating wildfires, even in Routt County?” Steamboat Springs is located in Routt County, which is currently battling fires.

Holmes, 27, was immediately escorted out by security as the crowd booed. Zinke angrily shouted: “You know what? You haven’t served and you don’t understand what energy is. I’d like to see your child have to fight for energy.”

Holmes added as she was being led out the door: “Our community is suffering because you will not acknowledge climate change.” 

Zinke appeared to be implying that Holmes had no standing to complain about the Trump administration’s position on climate change because she hadn’t “served” and he assumed she knew nothing about energy.

Zinke’s boss, Donald Trump, has called climate change a Chinese hoax and has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris climate accords.

Holmes told Huffpost that she thought Zinke, a former Navy Seal, attacked her for not serving in the military, particularly since he referred to her child “fighting for energy,” presumably in a future war over oil.

“So it’s out there. It’s all about energy and that’s why they need to pillage public lands so we’re energy independent,” she said. Zinke did ask veterans to stand at the start of his speech, and joked that as a Navy Seal he could shoot back unlike in his current job. But when Holmes spoke up Zinke was talking about Trump, tariffs and energy.

The Department of the Interior did not immediately return phone calls to clarify what Zinke meant by “served,” and why that was a prerequisite for Holmes’ comments.

Holmes said she was stunned by Zinke’s anger as he jabbed the air with his finger and angrily yelled at her.

She said it was her first time participating in that kind of protest. The ticket to get into the event cost her $382, she said. “But if they weren’t going to give me a seat at the table, I was going to take one,” she told Huffpost.

Zinke’s speech was about the management of public lands — and energy. He was instrumental in gutting Utah’s Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments while public lands in his home state of Montana were increased. The de-designated public lands are now open to energy and mining corporations.

Some 1,400 protesters gathered at a “Stand for Our Land” demonstration Friday against Zinke and the Trump administration’s policies outside the Routt County courthouse.

Zinke has “attacked our national monuments. He’s putting emphasis on extractive industries like oil and gas and allowing them to get around rules … and he’s attacking the Land [and] Water Conservation Fund,” event organizer Cody Perry told the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Thousands of pages of emails released — and almost immediately retracted — last month from the Interior Department revealed that officials  dismissed the importance of public lands for tourism, recreation and archeological discoveries. Ryan and aides instead targeted their surveys of protected sites to prioritize the value of ranching, logging — and energy development

“No one loves public land as much as I do,” Zinke said in his speech at the conference.

Zinke’s response to Holmes, telling her she hasn’t “served,” is more clearly audible on the video below. His reaction to Holmes begins about 9:05 on the tape.

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