You are here

Poll Shows Westerners Want Protections For Public Lands, Frown on Fossil Fuels, Nuclear


A poll of Western attitudes on the environment shows some disagreement with politicians over public lands stewardship and energy generation.

The poll of 2,400 voters in Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Montana shows they view public lands as "essential" to their states' economies and their overall quality of life. The poll was conducted January 5-10 for the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project.

“Westerners see the permanent protection of their public lands as an economic imperative, and essential to their quality of life,” said Walt Hecox, PhD., a Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director. “Decision-makers would do well to take notice and cure the often one-sided tendency to pursue development rather than protection that we’ve seen emerge over the last four years.”

The poll found that 91 percent of the respondents were in agreement that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas were essential to their state’s economy. Further, 71 percent oppose proposals to sell off public lands, and overwhelmingly reject arguments for the sale of public lands.

Officials in Utah and New Mexico have called on the federal government to turn over most public lands to the states.

Highlights from the 2013 Conservation in the West poll:

• 79 percent believe public lands support their economy and enhance their overall quality of life.

• 74 percent believe national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas help attract high quality employers and good jobs to their state.

• 71 percent believe selling off public lands to corporations for development would hurt their economy and quality of life.

• 52 percent perceive public lands to be a job creator in their state.

The survey also illuminates Westerners’ view of energy production. For the second year in a row, Westerners vastly prefer that renewable energy development be encouraged in their state, rather than nuclear power or fossil fuels. In Utah, where the state supported an open pit coal mine close to Bryce Canyon National Park, just 16 percent of the respondents favored coal as an energy source, according to the poll.

When it comes to specific approaches to energy sources, those polled in the six states overall rated solar, wind, and natural gas sources ahead of "energy efficient imports," oil, nuclear, and coal. Arizonans favored solar the most, with 74 percent favoring that form of renewable energy, while 56 percent of those contacted in Colorado had wind energy at the top of their list.

When it comes to the politics of conservation, the polling found that "voters are inclined to take a positive view of a candidate who espouses pro-conservation positions. For example, when asked about a candidate who supports protecting public lands, a majority of voters say that position alone would give them a 'more favorable' impression of that candidate. Moreover, voters are even more positively impressed with a pro-conservation GOP candidate than with a Democratic candidate."

And yet, "Most Westerners acknowledge they are unaware of the record of their member of Congress on protecting land, air and water," the poll discovered.

They do, however, pay attention to their natural resources.

When it comes to water, already a precious resource in the Intermountain West, "87% say that the low water level in rivers is a serious problem, with a significant majority (60%) saying it is an 'extremely serious' or 'very serious' problem. Worries about low levels of water in rivers are especially pronounced in New Mexico (83% extremely/very serious), Colorado (69%), and Arizona (59%)."

"In fact, in what may be unprecedented concern about the state of rivers – voters in Colorado and Wyoming are more likely to say the state of rivers is a 'very serious' problem than say the same for economic concerns (by 11 and 23 points, respectively). That said, throughout the region two-thirds or more say that low water levels in rivers are a problem."

You can find all the reports that resulted from this polling at this site.


Rep. Bishop (R-Oil & Gas) gets a stack of money from his constituents.

Bishop seems to get how to stretch the truth. In his push to assume management of Federal Lands in Utah, he states that the counties lose revenue due to the lack of tax dollars from the Fed. However, he does not mention the millions of $$ Utah gets in PILT from the Fed nor the millions of $$ Utah gets in SRS funds. Both fund sources will go away if Utah takes over management. Additionally, the Federal Government provides revenue sharing to states through the BLM and Forest Service; the payments cover mining, grazing, logging, royalties, and the like.

I'm not sure what you think he gets. His proposal is to take over federal management but what he is most consumed by is "energy rich" land. He wants to increase fracking and the development of tar sands reserves within the state regardless of the fact that there is not enough water and that pollution levels in Utah are their highest ever in both land and water. Bishop, like many others, is purely motivated by self-interest and money.

beachdumb--Gets what? I can't think of one thing that Rep. Bishop gets. He's wrong about border security (see last year's HR 1505), he's wrong about what is appropriate on public lands (see last year's HR 4089), and he's wrong about most of the bills that come before his Sub-committee of the House Natural Resources Committee. I always thought that our Representative from New Mexico, Steve Pearce, was the worst chairman in the history of the House Sub-committee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, but I don't know now. Bishop is gaining, if not ahead.

I have only been to Hatteras one time so I am, obviously, not qualified to speak about the amount of beach open and closed during the nesting periods of the plovers and turtles. But, as in the case of Yellowstone and snowmobiles, it seems that both sides, instead of shouting at each other, need to find some accomodation that will work. Legislative solutions to use conflicts are usually not the best way to resolve these kinds of disagreements. They tend to be one-sided and often sacrifice the resources their proponents say they are trying to protect.


My bad, he is not a senator, it is getting hard to keep track of all the players. Any ways, he would make a great senator in my book since he gets it...

REPRESENTATIVE Bishop is a relative stranger to truth. Probably allergic to it. I know the guy personally.

And for goodness sake, let's not elevate him to the Senate. Utah's senators are already bad enough.

On June 27th, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation (Bishop) will hold an oversight hearing on “Outdoor Recreation Opportunities on State, Local and Federal Land.” The hearing is scheduled for 2:00 pm in 1334 Longworth. The Department was not invited to testify.

Senator Bishop is another one that gets it. Very smart move to not invite the NPS to meeting, he probably wanted the meeting to be based on the truth.

Barbara Moritsch thank you for the thoughtful post. It really is a thrill to drive some of the back roads of Nevada, there are some wild places. Highway 6 is a real treat. I agree with you, not only pristine habitat (relatively speaking), but watersheds, open space, well the list is endless. Nevada is a place that kind of grows on you. I do think imtnbke has a good point, but, like giving up on the Yosemite Planning effort, we must not do that, we must try to do better. I know imtnbke is an accomplished attorney, your posts are always worth reading, and you are right, we humans are complicated. But we still have to try to reduce our fossil fuel imprint. Imtnbke, there is much evidence that our use of pesticides and other chemicals is also becoming a huge issue. I would be interested in any comments you might have. We are not only talking about agriculture but household and backyard pesticides and fertilizers as well.

Thanks for the post, Lee.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments