COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Jan. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Against an uptick in anti-public lands rhetoric from militant extremists, a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today revealed strong public support for efforts to protect and maintain national public lands.
The poll surveyed the views of voters in seven Mountain West states on key public lands issues affecting the region, including proposals to designate new national monuments in the West, establish new environmental and safety standards for oil and gas drilling, and prioritize renewable energy production on public lands.
Central to recent local controversies in Burns, Oregon and elsewhere, the poll – for the first time in its six-year history – asked voters about efforts to turn national public lands owned by all Americans over to state or private control. 65 percent of Latino respondents oppose giving state governments control over national public lands. Only 29 percent of Latino respondents support selling significant holdings of public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
"Charges of government overreach from the ideological fringes are making headlines, but in reality most Westerners in this poll favor greater protection and sensible use of the open lands and national treasures that define the region," said Eric Perramond, professor in the Southwest Studies and Environmental Programs at Colorado College, and the Faculty Director of the State of the Rockies Project.
The poll also examined public views on the creation of new national monuments—a topic that has often been portrayed as controversial and unpopular in the West. The poll showed overwhelming Latino support—82 percent in favor—for future presidents protecting public lands with a national monument designation.
"These results make clear Western communities care deeply about the public lands that embody the best of our nation's culture, spirit and beauty," said former U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar. "Western voters see our outdoor heritage as integral to our economy and our way of life, and they certainly don't want to see their public lands seized by ideologues or sold by politicians in Washington."
Looking ahead to the upcoming elections, 84 percent of Latinos consider issues involving public lands, waters, and wildlife as an important factor as other issues like the economy, health care and education when deciding whether to support an elected public official. Even so, 61 percent of Latinos think that most presidential candidates don't understand issues involving public lands, waters and wildlife. Comparatively, 56 percent of Latinos think Congressional candidates are just as uninformed.
"Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It's natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation," said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. "With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we're going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we've never seen before."
Additional key findings include:
- Latinos consider water issues — low levels of water in rivers (85 percent), drought (87 percent), and pollution of rivers, lakes and streams (82 percent) — to be nearly as serious of an issue as unemployment (90 percent).
- Compared to other issues like the economy, health care and education, 84% of Latinos consider issues involving public lands, waters, and wildlife as an important factor in deciding whether to support an elected public official.
- More than three quarters of Latinos surveyed in Arizona, Colorado Nevada and Utah, believe the Colorado River is at risk, critical to its state's economy, an attraction for tourism and recreation, while Latinos nearly unanimously agree (92 percent) that the Colorado River is a national treasure that should be protected.
- 82 percent of Latinos in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah believe that we should use our current water supply more wisely by emphasizing conservation, while just 11% think water shortage issues should be addressed by diverting more water from rivers in less populated areas.
- 72 percent of Latinos support the renewal of the Land Water Conversation Fund.
- 80 percent of respondents agree with a proposed Obama Administration rule to require oil and gas producers who operate on national public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air.
This is the sixth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public's sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2016 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of seven Western states (AZ, CO, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 2,800-person sample. The survey was conducted December in December and has a margin of error of +/-2.74 percent nationwide and +/-4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.
SOURCE Hispanic Access Foundation