During my time in the Navy, while stationed in Pennsylvania and Virginia, I’d visit protected coastal areas during weekends, walking along the beaches or biking trails, taking in the sounds of the land and sea. Public lands have been sacred spaces to veterans and citizens alike since the beginnings of our nation. My ship, The USS Kearsarge was even named after a mountain in New Hampshire. Years later, when I was summiting a mountain in the area, I would search for Mount Kearsarge, looking to feel that connection to my service and my country.

Now that connection is at risk of being cut.

Earlier this year, Congress permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a bipartisan program that has been funding public land projects across the country since 1964. Using royalties paid by oil and gas companies, LWCF helps protect spaces like the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and parts of the famed Appalachian Trail. In Maine alone, LWCF has invested $187 million in protecting our spaces for all. That’s $187 million dollars dedicated to wild spaces and public places for Maine residents, businesses, and tourists – all at no cost to the taxpayers.

Still, Congress stopped short of fully and permanently funding LWCF, leaving the money intended for public lands vulnerable to being siphoned off to pay for other government projects. In fact, President Trump has already proposed a 105 percent cut to LWCF funding – less than zero of what its founders intended.

Which is why I, along with eight fellow veterans went to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and  Angus King, as well as U.S. Reps Chellie Pingree Jared Golden and tell them how important public lands are, not just to the military members and veterans of our nation, but to American families. I was particularly excited to speak with Rep. Pingree’s staff because of her important role on the House Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee, and even more excited to hear that she supports full and permanent funding for LWCF.  Now, it’s time for action.

As a veteran, public lands were important for me to stay active, to rest, and to heal. As a mother, they are critical to connecting with my two sons. Whether biking through the carriage trails of Acadia National Park or swirling in the mist while standing in awe of Niagara Falls, these trips to public lands are some of our most treasured experiences.

It is important to me that these lands be preserved in their natural setting and not commercialized so families like mine can enjoy these spaces away from the highly electronic world in which we live. More and more, these family trips become important not only to my sons, creating memories and a lifelong love of travel and nature, but for me as well. With no WiFi or cell signal, I can focus all my attention on my children and be truly present in the moment.

Which is why it is critical to make our voices heard by contacting our representatives and urging that they reject president Trump’s proposal to slash funding for public lands. Instead, our elected officials should represent us, the people, by fully and permanently dedicating funding to LWCF, protecting our cherished spaces for generations to come.


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