Poll: Western voters love their public lands

The latest "Conservation in the West" poll from Colorado College shows strong support among voters in the Mountain West for such federal public land agencies as the National Park Service. [Photo courtesy of Public News Service.]

The latest “Conservation in the West” poll from Colorado College shows strong support among voters in the Mountain West for such federal public land agencies as the National Park Service. [Photo courtesy of Public News Service.]

Doug Ramsey

Public News Service

Residents of the Rocky Mountain states want their public lands protected, and say candidates’ positions on conservation and land use could decide votes in this year’s elections. 

The latest Conservation in the West poll from Colorado College shows strong support in Arizona and the Intermountain region for preserving public lands, regardless of a voter’s political affiliation.

Democratic pollster Dave Metz says opposition to selling public lands to pay down the national debt is even higher this year than last.

“Seventy-four percent, almost three-quarters of voters, now tell us they oppose the sale of those public lands – with almost three in five, 58 percent, telling us that they strongly oppose such a sale,” he says.

The bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters found 85 percent agreement that closing national parks, as happened last year, hurts communities and small businesses.

And 83 percent say they’re against funding cuts for national parks, forests and other public lands.

Despite significant distrust of the federal government in parts of the West, Republican pollster Lori Weigel says the poll found strong support for federal public lands agencies.

“Eighty-four percent approving of the National Park Service, 73 percent the U.S. Forest Service, 69 percent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” she relates.

“BLM (Bureau of Land Management), it was still by a two-to-one margin that they indicated a more positive than a negative.”

In Arizona, voters were strongly concerned about pollution of rivers, lakes and streams.

And Arizona Wilderness Coalition director Barbara Hawke says the poll also shows 72 percent of the state’s voters would be more likely to support a candidate who favors greater use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

“Arizonans, like the country, are recognizing that we need to plan for our nation’s energy future, and planning for appropriate siting of renewables is a great way to add to that mix,” she says.

Hawke is concerned that the Sonoran Desert Heritage Act, addressing a variety of land use issues in an area west of Phoenix, has been stalled in Congress for well over a year.

“If we are going to allow our children to have the same opportunities we have to go out and experience our incredible natural areas in Arizona, we need to take action today,” she stresses.

Even with this year’s 50th anniversary celebration of the federal Wilderness Act, Hawke adds there’s still a great deal of work to be done on Arizona’s unprotected public lands that remain vulnerable to development.

 

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