The 13th annual State of the Rockies poll shows increasing support for conservation policies among western states residents. This comes despite major issues like inflation, drought, water shortages …
The 13th annual State of the Rockies poll shows increasing support for conservation policies among western states residents. This comes despite major issues like inflation, drought, water shortages and overcrowding.
The poll, which surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states, including Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona, found the majority (70%-90%) support conservation goals like protecting wildlife habitats and migration routes, ensuring healthier forests, preventing light pollution that blocks out stars and safeguarding drinking water, according to results.
“This year voters in the West have a lot on their minds, but they are not willing to trade one priority for another,” says Katrina Miller-Stevens, director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor at Colorado College. “High gas prices, increasing costs of living and water shortage concerns are not enough to move Westerners to reconsider their consistent support for conservation policies or seek out short-sighted solutions that put land and water at risk. In fact, people in the West want to continue our progress to protect more outdoor spaces.”
In Wyoming, 74% of respondents said they were conservationists, the highest percentage of the eight states polled. More than 60% consider themselves hunters and/or anglers, and an amazingly high percentage, 93%, are in favor of wildlife crossing structures across major highways.
Almost 80% of residents support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation, 75% support presidents continuing to use their ability to protect existing public lands as national monuments, and 74% support a national goal of conserving 30% of America’s land and waters by the year 2030.
Another eight in 10 respondents describe the current shortage of water supplies in the West as a problem. Almost the same number of residents support requiring local governments to determine whether there is enough water available before approving new residential development projects. Yet, only 60% support providing financial incentives to homeowners and businesses to replace lawns and grassy areas with water-saving landscaping.
At the same time, only 47% of respondents — the lowest percent of any state polled — prefer that leaders place more emphasis on protecting water, air, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities over maximizing the amount of land available for drilling and mining. At the same time, 85% support requiring oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished.
Our neighbors in Montana showed the highest percentage in support of requiring oil and gas companies to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished at 96%.
A solid majority of 65% supports only allowing oil and gas companies the right to drill in areas where there is high likelihood to actually produce oil and gas; also the lowest percentage of the Western states polled.
Voters express higher levels of concern than in the past over several issues that impact Western lifestyles. Asked what they consider to be extremely or very serious problems for their state, 65% of Westerners point to inadequate water supplies, 67% say drought, 69% say the low level of water in rivers, 78% name the rising cost of living and 60% say the price of gasoline.
“Voters are more concerned than ever about issues that impact Western lifestyles, specifically as it relates to overcrowding in the Mountain West as more people move into the region,” according to analysis of the data by Alexa Gromko, director of External Relations & Editorial Content for Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. “As a result, voters are concerned for their way of life, access to adequate drinking water, access to the outdoors and protecting wildlife.”