June 16, 2015

Standing Up for Our Heritage on Flag Day

Formally, June 14 commemorates the Second Continental Congress' 1777 adoption of the flag of the United States. But Flag Day is also an appropriate time to examine and commemorate what those stars and stripes stand for - the values that bind us as a people and a nation.

When I served with the U.S. Army, I wore a flag on my arm every day -- but I didn't need that reminder to know I was serving for freedom, honor, independence, responsibility, and opportunity. When I returned stateside and became a dad, those values became even more tangible.

Like all parents, we want the best for our sons and daughters. We want them to have every chance to realize their potential and dreams. And we intend to keep them away from TV and video games and outside, enjoying the great outdoors as much as possible.

I grew up enjoying nature, and I've written quite a bit about how Colorado's national forests were key to my successful transition into civilian life. When I think of what the American flag stands for, I think of those forests, as well as the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, the Washington Monument, Abraham Lincoln's house.

Our national parks, monuments and public lands reflect our national identity. These are the very best scenic, historic, cultural and wildlife areas in our country. These are the national treasures we agreed as a nation to protect for the next generation -- for my kids and yours.

President Obama said it recently in his proclamation of June as Great Outdoors America Month: "These are the places that make our country great, and as heirs to this extraordinary legacy of conservation, we have an obligation to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the everlasting bounty of the great outdoors."

And yet, these are places Congress is intent on harming. Partisan legislation in Congress would auction off our shared public lands to the highest bidder. Other bills would erode newly-reinstated protections for our clean, drinking water supplies; stall proactive efforts to protect habitat for wildlife such as the hreater sage-grouse; and block the president from designating and protecting new national monuments. Congress is also intent on running out the clock on one of the nation's most valued programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which for fifty years, has used offshore oil and gas fees to fund onshore parks and land conservation.

This Congress is pursuing partisan attacks on America's public lands' heritage. It is not acting in the broad interest of the American people or our shared responsibility to our children and grandchildren.

One of my favorite quotes on the environment is from another president -- Ronald Reagan: "What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live... And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live -- our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it."

When the flag was hoisted outside our houses and over the Capitol in Washington this Flag Day, I hope we all considered our responsibility to the nation and to the future. If we do not stand up for our heritage, we are complicit in its loss.

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