Guest editorial: Park City Olympic hopeful questions rollback of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments
January 22, 2018
After growing up in an Army family that moved all over the United States, I'm proud to call Utah home. Our public lands are a huge source of this pride. I began to explore Utah's amazing natural wonders when I moved here for high school and then to study nursing at Southern Utah University. After running track and field in college, I received a Facebook message from a teammate about trying a new sport: bobsled.
Fast forward and I now live in Park City, where I am training for the upcoming Olympic Games. Being so close to the mountains is ideal for my sport and I treasure the great outdoors here in my home state.
Right now I am very focused on my goal to qualify for the Games and win an Olympic medal. But at the same time, I am worried about what's happening to our national monuments.
When I saw President Trump's recent decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, I was shocked. Now we have Utah lawmakers like Rep. Rob Bishop, Rep. Chris Stewart, and Rep. John Curtis doubling down on this attack with proposed legislation to secure Trump's rollbacks on our monuments. As an Olympic hopeful, I train with many athletes every day in the outdoors. We all value, use, and love our public lands. These are the places we go to get strong, find solace, and have fun. Why would the government want to reduce the public's access to these areas?
I grew up with four siblings and we spent most of our family vacations in the great outdoors exploring new places. Because we had such a large family, we camped a lot. I now find myself spending more and more time outdoors with my friends. I have so much pride for the beauty our country has to offer. We have so many diverse regions that provide almost any landscape you are looking for. Living in Utah, I find myself most connected to Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches and Zion National Parks. I dream of visiting other public lands too – the top of my list right now is the Wave in Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
While I am preparing for the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, I spend a lot of time outside for both training and taking a break from the gym. Many of our bobsled tracks are located in areas surrounded by public land. I love to use these places to find my center and focus on things that are the most important in my life.
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As I reflect on the recent elimination of national monuments with potentially many more acres on the chopping block, my biggest concern is about our country's future and the potential loss of these natural places for future generations. Protecting these places is essential so that future generations can enjoy these places just as much as we do, if not more.
I will continue to treasure and fight for the protection of our national monuments and special places like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase. America's public lands have always been there for me. Now, I want to be there for them.
Kristi Koplin is training for the women's Olympic bobsled team is a member of Olympians for Public Lands, a group of athletes from a variety of sports and states speaking up to protect the lands they love. Learn more at http://www.olympiansforpubliclands.org.