As the 2018 Winter Olympics get closer, I've been reflecting on my own Olympic experience. I had the incredible honor of competing as a ladies figure skater at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, where I finished seventh. As an Olympian, you represent not just yourself and your team, but your country. For me, one of the most important sources of pride in my country and in our shared heritage as a nation has been our public lands.
The United States is one of few countries with a significant amount of land dedicated to the public, and I find that we sometimes take that for granted. Traveling across the world for figure skating made me appreciate that immensely. We have such a unique and diverse topography across the country, and it is one of the many reasons people come to the United States to visit. The scenery is spectacular and breathtaking, so it's definitely something to be proud of as an American.
When I moved from California to Colorado to focus on my skating, I was immediately impressed by the Rockies and Colorado's vast system of public lands. A key component of my training regimen was to cross train, and Colorado's public lands were the perfect setting for this. Now that I've retired from skating, I primarily use public lands as a place to relax and recharge. Being outside, away from the rink and from my work, allows me to take a breath, disconnect from technology, and reflect on my goals and recent experiences.
Since I have moved on from my competitive career, I am planning to start graduate school this fall. Before classes begin, I am hoping to spend a month on the road visiting a number of national parks and national monuments. As I have spent a significant amount of time both training and relaxing in the great outdoors, I have grown to see just how important access to public land is for all of us.
All Americans, not just elite athletes, should be able to relax, refresh, and reboot ourselves with fresh air and open spaces.
Hearing that the Trump administration has opted to shrink some of our nation's most treasured national monuments is deeply upsetting to me.
On top of this, lawmakers recently introduced legislation to further secure these reductions to our monuments. These actions are so shocking to me, especially given that the public is so clearly opposed to the idea. Many of these public lands play a critical role in our history, and I can't imagine getting rid of these protections.
Public lands are essential to the American landscape, and we have to respect the land that is such an important part of America's identity and history.
I sincerely hope that the administration changes its stance and its plans to reduce protections on additional national monuments and that Congress stands up for all of our national monuments, especially those that have already had protections reduced.
I believe that protecting our public lands should not be an issue of political affiliation, but rather an issue of supporting the values of our nation. While nothing could ever diminish my pride in this country, this blatant disregard for the public interest is very disappointing. As I look forward to cheering on the American athletes in Pyeongchang, I will be keeping close my love of this country and its beautiful landscape, with the hope that future Olympians will be able to share and enjoy our nation's public lands in their entirety.
Rachael Flatt was the 2010 U.S. national champion, three-time national silver medalist, 2008 World Junior champion, and finished seventh at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. She 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 www.olympiansforpubliclands.org and www.facebook.com/olympiansforpubliclands.