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Opinion: The Senate can protect the public lands we need now and post-pandemic

The school year is ending and we are still uncertain about what our summer will look like. Travel plans, day camps for the kids, the local pool and playground – everything is in question.

Parents are wondering what to do with their children all summer, especially while working. The one thing that is certain is that we are all trying to find our way in a new time. 

Another thing that seems to be certain across Colorado is that people are seeking out the restorative power of nature. These days I have found myself in the garden frequently, not even conscious of the fact that I am seeking out the evidence of new growth. The hope that comes with new life.

Jen Clanahan

The joy that flowers bring. The peace that we feel when surrounded by green spaces. 

You see it at the trail heads and in the parks. Everyone is seeking the solace that nature brings. In fact, people are so desperate to get outside and get their kids outside that some of the trails and parks are overcrowded and have been closed.

Health officials worry about the ability to keep socially distant. Park managers are concerned about the damage done as people attempt to move off trails and away from others.

Since spring sports were canceled and children have been cooped up at home, kids have started climbing the walls. It became important not just for physical exercise but also for everyone’s mental sanity to get out and run around. It truly spotlights the demand on our public lands in Colorado where we love and depend on our outdoor quality of life. 

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And now, since we have been encouraged to stay close to home, outdoor recreation opportunities need to be available throughout the state at the neighborhood, county and regional levels.    

Grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the nation’s most successful program to protect and improve access to public spaces, will provide us with this.

It’s funded from offshore oil and gas drilling and has been helping to ensure access to recreation for everyone and safeguard cultural heritage for more than 50 years. We need the benefits of this program now more than ever. 

Unfortunately, most years LWCF has been shortchanged to about half of its originally intended $900 million annually, with the remainder going to unrelated non-conservation projects. LWCF needs to be fully funded for many reasons, not the least of which is to continue to help moms survive difficult times like these and so our kids can reap the benefits of outdoor recreation.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

An article from Harvard Health Publishing enumerates the skills gained from outdoor play. Kids learn to create, they develop executive function skills like planning and troubleshooting, and get the necessary vitamin D.   

Actually, as moms we don’t need the experts to tell us that our kids should get outdoors.  We know it instinctively. My organization recently commissioned a poll of moms across all parts and parties of Colorado and Montana.

The results say it all: 91% want to live in a place where their family has access to parks, trails and open space and 88% say ensuring new investments to protect and maintain access to public lands and public waters is important.

Fortunately the Senate is poised to vote on a bill in the next couple of weeks that will fully and permanently fund LWCF. Moms across the state have their fingers crossed.

We, and our kids, are counting on our members of Congress to help us grapple with these difficult times, and moreover to ensure our children’s children have access to the public lands they need. 


Jen Clanahan is the Colorado State Director of Mountain Mamas, an organization that raises the volume of Western women’s voices to protect our outdoor quality of life, for our kids and our future.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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