As a little girl, I dreamed of Colorado’s mountains and endless natural vistas. I begged my parents relentlessly to visit the Rocky Mountains — to hike! Climb! Ski! Run free!

Throughout adolescence, the pull to the mountains dominated my thoughts and felt nearly primal. 

Finally, in 2007, as a recent college graduate, I rolled into Colorado’s plains with my little VW loaded up with my bike, skis, running shoes and little else. Once here, I realized I wasn’t the only one who craved the mountain air, the dirt (or snow) beneath my feet.

Amy Dannwolf, he co-owner of Powder7 in Golden, Colorado alongside her husband Jordan Jones. (Handout)

Determined to spend as much time outside as possible, my husband, Jordan Jones, and I charted our own course, opening an internet-based ski shop out of our garage. We quickly outgrew our garage, and over the past 13 years, Powder7 has grown to a staff of 40 of the most enthusiastic skiers you’ll ever meet.

There are a lot of great things about owning a ski shop, but above all, the most impactful is playing a role in getting people outside enjoying nature and reliving their joys and experiences with us when they visit the shop.

Public lands are vital not only to our customers’ enjoyment of the great outdoors, but also to our business and Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy.

In 2017, outdoor recreation contributed ​$62 billion​ to Colorado’s economy and ​$2 billion​ in state and local taxes annually, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

In addition, a recent study​ conducted by Conservation Science Partners found that the American West loses a football field worth of natural areas every 2.5 minutes. In Colorado, we lost 525 square miles of natural areas to development between 2001 and 2011.

Without permanent protections, these key public lands could be threatened by new mines, logging, privatization and unnecessary roads.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Such development also pollutes clean air and water for Coloradans and all those living downstream, and it would undermine not just our outdoor recreation economy, but our way of life — the way of life I dreamed of as a little kid, and the way of life I’m doing my best to raise my own children to enjoy today.

And we need our elected officials to help us, too.

We all know our public lands are at risk. To fight this, Sen. Michael Bennet and other Coloradans introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act to protect our most cherished lands, waters and forests. It would provide for about 400,000 acres of public lands protections across the state.

This comprehensive public lands legislation would protect wild places, clean water supplies and wildlife migration corridors and habitat, and create sustainable recreation opportunities and preserve rural Colorado’s way of life for future generations to enjoy.

This bill seems like a no-brainer to every Coloradan I talk with, but it’s currently just sitting in the U.S. Senate, without even a date to vote on the bill.

We need Sen. Cory Gardner to join Sen. Bennett and push for the bill to reach the floor. Sen. Gardner promised us that he would defend our state’s natural beauty — instead, he’s in Washington serving big oil interests.

He’s taken $1.2 billion from big oil donors — where does that leave us?

While Sen. Bennet recognizes the growing support and demand for a comprehensive effort to permanently protect these places for future generations, Sen. Gardner has not been vocal about supporting the bill.

Gardner sits on the Subcommittee of National Parks and on the Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining. Yet, he has not committed his vote to support this popular and common-sense bill, nor has he even made an effort to push his Republican allies to bring the bill to a vote.

We cannot wait any longer while our public lands are sold to special interests and dwindle down to nothing. Our public lands are the center of what makes us Coloradans, they drive our outdoor economy and pull thousands of people to our state to explore, whether on land, snow or in our rivers.

They pulled me, as a little kid, to dream of a life here — running, hiking, skiing — and to make that dream a reality, and in the process realize the American Dream of owning my own business and creating jobs in an industry I can be proud of.

Sen. Gardner: you made promises that you would protect our Colorado way of life, and that includes our public lands. What are you waiting for? Please use your influence in the Senate to bring the CORE act to a vote and get it passed.

Amy Dannwolf is the co-owner of Powder7 in Golden, Colorado alongside her husband Jordan Jones. She is also a member of Rocky Mountain Values.

Special to The Colorado Sun