Like so many moms across Colorado, I’m raising my daughter here for our outdoor quality of life. It’s not just the sunshine and the exercise. Those are important, but it’s more than that.

Jen Clanahan

Moms want their kids and grandkids to experience a sense of awe and adventure. I still remember the first time I saw deer in the wild when I was young. I was so thrilled I squealed with delight (and, unfortunately, scared them away!).

I’m hopeful we will be able to share this same excitement with our children in the future. It’s important to parents that their children and grandchildren have the chance to squeal in awe of the nature around us while also getting exercise and fresh air and gaining skills they can’t learn in a classroom. 

We currently face a risk that our public lands in Colorado are being severely threatened, causing a huge concern for moms and caretakers who want to provide our children with an opportunity to go camping, hiking, bicycling, and other outdoor activities. A new report released in May shows Colorado is falling behind on protecting the public lands that Colorado families count on to get kids outside.

Colorado’s natural landscapes, strong economy, and great weather have resulted in families flocking here to raise their kids. We risk losing the very thing parents love about raising their children here if we continue to see a steady stream of newcomers without prioritizing public-land protections. We are developing more and more land to accommodate new residents, but we aren’t keeping up on preserving special places.

The report, released by Center for Western Priorities, studied the number of acres of federal land that have received some level of protection and found that despite poll after poll showing strong majority support for additional protected areas, only 134,358 acres of public lands in Colorado have been conserved since 2011.

Unprotected public lands are developed at a rapid clip – a football field-size area of land is lost to development every 30 seconds in the U.S. There are opportunities in Colorado to protect public lands with the Colorado Outdoors Recreation and Economy Act and the Colorado Wilderness Act, but both have been waiting for passage for more than a decade in the U.S. Congress.

According to a recent bipartisan survey, the gridlock and inaction to expand and protect lands have frustrated Coloradans. The State of the Rockies poll shows that 89% of Coloradans feel that clean water, wildlife, and public lands are factors in deciding whether to support an elected official. Further, 86% support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas.

It can be concluded that environmental issues are not wedge issues for voters. Those in leadership positions need to remember that moms, women, and families around the country want to enjoy, protect and expand our natural resources for outdoor play today and ensure that their children can someday do the same with their children.  

Coloradans will be outside enjoying the sunshine in and around our state during the summer because parents know that outdoor play has many benefits for children. Outdoor playtime is often unstructured, allowing children to develop creativity and other executive skills like planning, troubleshooting, and negotiating. Studies also show a long list of benefits outdoor play provides children, including improving executive function, coordination, sensory skills, and mental health. Sunshine helps establish healthy sleep cycles and, of course, absorb Vitamin D.

To help families explore our beautiful state and all that it has to offer, Mountain Mamas created several suggested Colorado road trips for families to take in the vistas, mountains, parks and national monuments. Perfect for families planning their summer trips. As a bonus, we’ve overlaid all the electric vehicle charging stations along the way.

As it stands today, our public outdoor resources are unmatched in their beauty; they provide children with significant learning possibilities and are located in our backyard. They must be protected.

In our state, by a large majority, parents support protecting more public lands and count on President Biden and our Congressional delegation to ensure that our kids have safe places to learn and play outdoors. This is not a partisan issue; protecting public lands is good for children and families, small businesses, and our farmers. Protecting our lands is protecting our future. 

Jen Clanahan, of Denver, is Colorado state director of Mountain Mamas.

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