Jimmy Funkhouser is the founder and owner of Feral Mountain Co. in Denver, CO. When he is not exploring the hinterland of Colorado he can usually be found at one of his favorite Denver watering holes, or spending time with our magnanimous shopdog Sophie.

What is it that makes America great?

This is a question that I’ve always struggled with. Statistically-speaking, things don’t look good for us on many fronts. You’ve probably seen the rankings. We’re not as educated as we think. We’re not as equal as we think. We’re not as free as we think.

Nonetheless, very few people really seem to question America’s greatness. Sure, patriotism is natural, but there truly seems to be something more to it. We just seem to intrinsically understand that the United States is different somehow.

And we are.

No other citizens of the world have more freedom of movement within their country than we do.

Think about that for moment. Think about what it means to truly be able to GO. To explore. To disappear or be found at your whim. Freedom of movement makes all other aspects of freedom possible.

Why do Americans have so much freedom of movement?

Simple. We have places to go. Public spaces and public lands.

What a suffocating country the United States would be if every inch of land was owned by a private interest. You may not be John Muir, but you probably walk your dog at your park. You don’t have to be the adventurous type to truly appreciate the value of public spaces. Your neighborhood park may not be Yosemite, but it is yours, and it can be taken away. Sold off to the highest bidder.

We were the first country to have National Parks. It is a truly American idea. We can’t say that about very many things. Since then, we have positioned the United States as a world leader in protecting open spaces. Why? Because we value freedom of movement. There are very few things that are more “American” than our public lands, and the freedom of exploration that they offer.

The moment a public land is sold, a tiny sliver of your freedom vanishes, and a small part of America’s identity is forever lost to the ever-spinning gears of “progress”.

But if public lands are “government-controlled”, are they truly free?

Of course. Think about the alternative. Public lands are the very definition of non-ownership. You can say we all own them, or no one owns them, but at the end of the day someone has to manage them. That is the government’s role.

You may not agree with some of the management policies. I certainly don’t. We can work to fix that. But once a land is privatized, all access and influence is lost. Your freedom of movement disappears, and a small part of America’s identity is lost with it.

To love our country is to love what makes it unique. Public spaces are as “American” as college sports and free refills, and protecting them is a pure act of patriotism.

In Colorado we have over 26 million acres of public space. It is yours. You are free to hike it, photograph it, or just relish the fact that it is there. But never forget the value of the freedom of movement that it affords, and your responsibility to protect that freedom.