I watched the news the other day and saw that Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner voted for former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt to run the Department of the Interior, painting his record of favoring energy industry clients as “valuable experience.” I can’t help but suggest that Cory Gardner go back and read the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” As a parent, I love the way it shows that what we were taught when we were little remains a powerful guide for our adult years. But lately I'm wondering whether Gardner was absent the days they taught those lessons in school. For example:
Play fair: Most of Gardner's Colorado constituents would agree that he is hardly playing fair. We, the Colorado public are not given the same access to him as the special interests are. Gardner has held almost no town halls where we could talk to him about the issues important to us or to ask him to explain his one-sided votes. That’s not fair.
Put things back where you found them: Gardner is a supporter of Big Oil interests, which means allowing them to drill on our public lands that are best protected. This is especially evident in his support for Bernhardt, who wants to speed up environmental reviews, minimize public comment and open more public land for energy development. Unfortunately, while the oil companies profit, public lands never fully recover. Wildlife is often gone for good. These lands have not left been how they found them, and they are certainly no longer areas I would take my child to run and play in the outdoors.
Share everything: Many families choose to raise their kids in Colorado because of our outdoor lifestyle of which our shared public lands are a critical element. It’s where we hike, camp, fish, play sports and explore with our kids. Again, Gardner seems more interested in letting the oil and gas industry proceed without safeguards in place to protect the rest of us from this industrial activity. He has supported repeal of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, meaning methane leaks can continue from oil and gas operations, threatening our kids’ future. Who wants to take their children to play next to an industrial oil field full of gas leaks?
Right now, he has another opportunity to help ensure that the public gets to enjoy our public lands, but so far he has not signed on. He’s been asked repeatedly to support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, a bill that has substantial support around the state to protect critical areas. He is also the only senator from Colorado who has never supported a wilderness bill.
Clean up your own mess: There are many areas of our public lands that have been damaged by industrial extraction activities and need to be cleaned up. We would love to see Gardner lead the charge to restore them. Instead he's voted to create additional "messes" by allowing oil and gas drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone: Gardner voted to confirm Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency tasked with protecting public health. Pruitt went on to institute rollback after rollback of air and water protections, ignoring the public’s health. Then he voted for former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler who had already proposed rolling back protections from mercury, a metal that can damage the brains of developing children which is of particular concern to us moms. Gardner is enabling these men to take away safeguards and leave our children in harm’s way. No apologies from Gardner yet.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together: I would love for us to be able to stick together as Coloradans to protect our public lands and health. Our quality of life and the well-being of our children are at stake. Unfortunately, Gardner has not been united with the voices of the large majority of Coloradans who value conservation, especially when energy exploration becomes a public health threat, earning him an embarrassingly low 7 percent on the recent League of Conservation Voters scorecard.
We moms, however, continue to stick together to speak up for our kids, their health and their future. Gardner may want to schedule a makeup lesson.
Jen Clanahan of Denver is “Head Mom” for Colorado Moms Know Best, a network of parents standing up for our children by protecting Colorado’s outdoors and quality of life, especially our clean air.