Survey of Western Attitudes Shows Strong Support for National Parks, Clean Environment

A recent survey of Western attitudes shows residents of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming see public lands as key to their state's economies.

A survey of Westerners shows overwhelming support for conservation of the landscape, with strong pluralities agreeing that "national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas, are an essential part" of their state economies.

In the states of Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, some of which rank among the "reddest" states, politically, in the country, the survey showed a broad bipartisan support for a clean, healthy environment.

Despite the sluggish economy and various calls for more development on public lands, the survey of 2,400 registered voters in thsoe six states found growing support for protection of public lands and resources and a declining belief that protections of these places often are in conflict with strong economies.

The survey was conducted January 2-7, 2012, by two polling firms, one Republican and one Democratic -- Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates -- for Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project. The poll carried a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

Among its findings:

* While 65 percent of Westerners identify themselves as "conservationists," just 29 percent affiliated themselves with the Tea Party movement, and just 25 percent connected themselves to the Occupy Wall Street movement;

* Whereas 74 percent of those surveyed in 2009 said land protection and conservation can go hand-in-hand with a strong economy, by 2012 that percent had risen to 78 percent;

* Whereas 24 percent of those surveyed in 2009 voiced the opinion that conservation of public lands sometimes is in conflict with strong economies, by 2012 that percentage had dropped to 19 percent;

* Among those respondents in this year's survey who identified themselves as Republicans, 76 percent were of the opinion that natural resources can be protected without harming economic conditions, an opinion shared by 84 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Tea Partiers.

Time and again the findings pointed to strong support for the environment. Two-thirds of those surveyed said the country's "energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator."

Additionally, there was strong disagreement that regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and dozens of other environmental policies should be held in abeyance for the U.S. Border Patrol in its efforts to stem illegal border crossings. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, has been a key proponent of that measure, though this poll shows he's out of step with his own constituents.

In Arizona, the state seen as having perhaps the strongest problem with illegal border crossings, 73 percent of the survey's respondents opposed suspending the environmental regulations in the battle against illegal immigration; in New Mexico, 65 percent of those surveyed were against that move; in Colorado the percentage was 68 percent, in Utah 72 percent, in Wyoming 69 percent, and in Montana 66 percent.

Dave Metz, a pollster for Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, said the survey's results pointed to a decided difference of opinion with many state leaders and those in Congress.

“Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” Mr. Metz said. “In fact, by a 17-point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

In Utah, for example, while 69 percent of the state residents surveyed for the poll endorsed Environmental Protection Agency efforts to update Clean Air Act standards, Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this year wrote the the Obama Administration to challenge EPA regulations to limit toxic pollution from power plants, the pollsters noted. And while "some members of Utah's congressional delegation are supporting legislation that would suspend environmental protections within 100 miles of U.S. borders to help stop illegal immigration; by a margin of 72 percent to 20 percent, voters in Utah (with similar results across the West) feel this proposal is unnecessary," they added.

"The poll results show that voters of all stripes, including conservatives, believe protecting clean air, clean water, and our natural heritage is consistent with traditional conservative values,” said Philip Carlson, Utah Coordinator for Republicans for Environmental Protection. “We call on our elected representatives to listen to their constituents and embrace the conservative ethic of good stewardship.”

In Arizona, the survey found strong support for a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park, with 70 percent of voters saying that the impact of mining on land and water is a serious problem in Arizona.

“Spending by Arizona hunters and anglers directly supports 21,000 jobs and generates $124-million in state and local taxes. This especially benefits rural communities like those surrounding the Grand Canyon. Why wouldn't we take steps to protect our parks, national forests, and wildlife habitat?” asked Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation and long-time resident of northern Arizona.

Arizona respondents to the survey also voiced lukewarm support for Gov. Jan Brewer, with just 47 percent saying they approve of the job she's doing. That was the lowest approval rating of any governor of the Western states polled.

“I’m not surprised with the poll results. In spite of what we hear from many Arizona elected officials, in my 35 years conducting and evaluating public opinion research in Arizona, it has always come across loud and clear that my fellow Arizonans (regardless of political affiliation) see themselves as conservationists and demand clean air, clean water and protections for the remarkable public lands that make our state so unique," said Richard Mayol of the Grand Canyon Trust.

And in Wyoming those contacted for the survey spoke about the importance of a clean, healthy environment to their economy.

“I think we’ve understood this here in Wyoming for a long time,” said Ken Cramer, owner of Cross Country Connections, an outdoor store in Laramie. “It doesn’t matter what your political party is. People live here because we care about the outdoors. People want to hunt, fish, have the outdoor experience – otherwise we’d leave.”

He added that the national forests, national parks, and public lands that lie within Wyoming's borders are key to the state’s economy.

“Tourism and outdoor recreation is the second-biggest industry in the state. We have three out of the top 10 destinations in the U.S. for snowmobiling," said Mr. Cramer. "Skiing, camping, rock climbing, hunting – it’s all huge here. We’ve got to have places to recreate and we’ve got to take care of them. Clean air, clean water and snow are vital to our activities and, of course, for our lives.”

At the National Parks Conservation Association, President Tom Kiernan said similar bipartisan support for national parks was evident last week at America's Summit on National Parks.

"One of the highlights (of the Summit) was seeing both Michelle Obama, Mrs. Obama, and Mrs. (Laura) Bush, seeing both (Interior) Secretary Ken Salazar and former Secretery Dirk Kempthorne, seeing both John Podesta and Mike Gerson ... time and again you saw at the Summit very different political views coming together around national parks and strongly endorsing the park idea and needing to advance it as we approach the (National Park Service) centennial," he said Monday. "The parks can and are playing a significant unifying role throughout the country, and that was visible at the Summit."

The pollsters also pointed out that the results "echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates ... who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth."

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable -- when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel, who for Public Opinion Strategies. “Westerners are telling us that we've got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

You can find the poll's results, (and other related survey details, such as support for elected officials, and more specific state results) at this site.


I'm glad you pointed out the glaring (I'm struggling to find an appropriate word here) of our Republican legislators and governmental leaders. Some of them won't be satisfied until every acre of our land have been paved and contain either densly packed homes, a drill rig or some kind of mine and after the dollars they have generated are lining the pocket of some of their usually very wealthy friends and contributors. And they're going nuts trying to figure out how to suck more of Lake Powell's waters into big pipes for transport to St. George, Salt Lake and other rapidly growing centers in the nation's second dryest state.

Ah well. They are just following Utah's environmental motto: Multiply, multiply and pillage the earth.

Yet there's still hope -- as this article points out -- that sensible people will somehow find a way to bring a halt to this madness.

Well Lee, I will always be open and expectant of a breakthrough for those with similar stridency on both sides of the issue. Lifetime of government service verses private sector careers certainly develope different leanings with odd and extreme impressions of the other seldom completely correct.

If we keep the Border Patrol out of the parks, the illegal crossers and smugglers won't have to worry about picking up after themselves. (I wonder how many people are smart enough to understand this comment.)

Jack: It's supposed to have been the brightest and smartest that's been having their way. How about giving the less bright and a bit more honest a chance. At least they won't know as many ways to game the system.

So Lee - tell us specfically what GOP legislators "won't be satisfied until every acre of our land have been paved and contain either densly packed homes, a drill rig or some kind of mine and after the dollars they have generated are lining the pocket of some of
their usually very wealthy friends and contributors." And, of course, we will expect you to back that accusation up. I won't hold my breath.

EC -- How about U.S. Rep Rob Bishop. Senator Mike Lee. Rep. Jason Chafetz. Utah legislator Mike Noel. I probably can't back it all up because they are too clever (or sleazy) to come right out and say it, but their behavior and past performance testifies mightily to that objective. Your anti-environmntal stance has been as well documented here on this website as have theirs in their actions in Congress and the Utah legislature.

It will require the vigilance and determination of people who value our public lands to prevent these people from achieving their goals. Consider this quote from Wallace Stegner that was in the NPS Digest just this morning:

American historian, author and environmentalist Wallace Stegner in Where The Bluebird Sings To The Lemonade Springs (1992):

One of the things Westerners should ponder, but generally do not, is their relation to and attitude toward the federal presence. The bureaus administering all the empty space that gives Westerners much of their outdoor pleasure and many of their special privileges and a lot of their pride and self-image are frequently resented, resisted, or manipulated by those who benefit economically from them but would like to benefit more, and are generally taken for granted by the general public. The federal presence should be recognized as what it at least partly is: a reaction against our former profligacy and wastefulness, an effort at adaptation and stewardship in the interest of the environment and the future....the land-managing bureaus all have at least part of their purpose the preservation of the West in a relatively natural, healthy, and sustainable condition...Neither state ownership nor private ownership – which state ownership would soon become – could offer anywhere near the usually disinterested stewardship that these imperfect and embattled agencies do, while at the same time making western space available for millions. They have been the strongest impediment to the careless ruin of what remains of the Public Domain, and they will be necessary as far ahead as I, at least, can see.

There may not be concrete proof of the goals of those who would destroy our lands, but evidence of their designs on our open spaces are plentiful in public records available to anyone who cares to seek it . Remember that actions speak much more loudly than words. Perhaps you should seek a wider and more divergent view of what's happening than the narrow window you seem to be peeking through.

It might also help all who read your posts to understand where you are coming from if you would provide some background information on yourself. Where do you live? What kind of work do you do? Who do you work for? What possible financial interests do you have in the stances you espouse here?


It might also help all who read your posts to understand where you are coming from if you would provide some background information on yourself. Where do you live? What kind of work do you do? Who do you work for? What possible financial interests do you have in the stances you espouse here.

Just to be fair what agency has been paying your ticket during your career and retirement? Where do those funds originate? Setting aside the extremes that you like give to support your arguments, it's a bit of ingratitude (at least) to disparage the very source of your own income and that of all government agencies. Just saying...


You might wish to check out HR 1505, authored by Rob Bishop, (R-UT), and reported out of the House Natural Resources committee on October 6th of last year. It would suspend the following environmental laws within 100 miles of the Canadian-US border and the Mexican-US border, all in the name of "border security".

• National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.),
• Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.),
• Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.),
• National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.),
• Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.),
• Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.),
• Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470aa et seq.),
• Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.),
• Noise Control Act of 1972 (42 U.S.C. 4901 et seq.),
• Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.),
• Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.),
• Public Law 86-523 (16 U.S.C. 469 et seq.),
• Act of June 8, 1906 (commonly known as the `Antiquities Act of 1906′) (16 U.S.C. 431 et seq.),
• Act of August 21, 1935 (16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.),
• Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.),
• Farmland Protection Policy Act (7 U.S.C. 4201 et seq.),
• Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.),
• Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.),
• Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.),
• National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.),
• Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.),
• Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661 et seq.),
• Subchapter II of chapter 5, and chapter 7, of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the `Administrative Procedure Act’),
• Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-145, 113 Stat. 1711),
• Sections 102(29) and 103 of California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (16 U.S.C. 410aaa et seq.),
• National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.),
• Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-1 et seq.),
• Sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-625, 92 Stat. 3467),
• Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 1132 note; Public Law 101-628),
• Section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403),
• Act of June 8, 1940 (16 U.S.C. 668 et seq.), (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.),
• Public Law 95-341 (42 U.S.C. 1996),
• Public Law 103-141 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.),
• Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.),
• Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528 et seq.)

Moreover, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have immediate access to lands managed by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture within 100 miles of our northern and southern borders for the purposes of “the construction and maintenance of roads, construction and maintenance of fences, use of vehicles to patrol, installation, maintenance and operation of surveillance equipment and sensors, use of aircraft, deployment of temporary tactical infrastructure, including forward operating bases.”

Since this is a park's forum, not a USFS site, here are the national parks that fall within the 100 mile zone: Acadia, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Cuyahoga Valley, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Guadalupe Mountains, Isle Royale, Joshua Tree, North Cascades, Olympic, Saguaro, Theodore Roosevelt, Voyageurs, Wrangells-St. Elias. That's a total acreage of 21,657,399, or about a quarter of the acreage of the National Park System. If one were to add the acreage affected in the forest system, the wildlife refuges and the BLM, there would be vast areas where things could be done without any public or environmental review. This doesn't make much sense to me and suggests that many of the committee members who voted to report out the bill had bigger things in mind than just "border security".


Anon : "Just to be fair what agency has been paying your ticket during your
career and retirement? Where do those funds originate? Setting aside the
extremes that you like give to support your arguments, it's a bit of
ingratitude (at least) to disparage the very source of your own income
and that of all government agencies. Just saying..."

The sources of my income are only two: Social Security (into which I paid for all my working years other than those in NPS) and state teacher retirement (into which I also paid a substantial portion of my income). I was not with NPS long enough to qualify for retirement.

Well, I guess there is a third source. A small investment in mutual funds into which I paid a whole lot of money only to see it seriously depleted by policies enabled by politicians who have very little interest in people like me (and you, probably) who are not wealthy enough to command their attention. If I sound a little bitter and disgusted, it's because I am.

I'm not disparaging taxpayers -- but I sure am disparaging some of the so-called leaders people are fooled into electing. And I live in Utah where a very small but powerfully wealth backed party machine is able to use propaganda to fool voters into re-electing them even though doing so is far from the best interest of many of those voters.

Here is an example of some of that propaganda fresh off Utah Senator Mike Lee's website this morning:

The Uranium Mining Ban

This administration has proven incapable of using even the slightest bit of
common sense when it comes to lands policy,” said Senator Mike Lee. “The American people are desperate for jobs, and our domestic energy industry provides some of the best paying jobs in the western states. However, the President and Interior Secretary Salazar are intent on appeasing their friends in the extreme left wing of the environmentalist movement during an election year by locking up as much land as
possible, regardless of the negative effects on our economy. For energy production that has long been safe and responsible, the announcement represents a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem.

Thank you, Rick. Your knowledge and support are much appreciated.

Yes, I fall into that "not wealthy enough" category to have significant sway in policy unlike those campaign contributors that got put ahead of the tax payers who, without a choice, contributed billions to neat but deeply flawed projects. Likewise with the GM bailout where private investors were subjugated to union interests. So what would be the issue that would have NPS thrown under the bus in order for job security (election). I'm referencing the Keystone decision against the Unions but that's a story in itself.

What would be your reaction to this? Would it be straight environmental ideology that all mining is not tolerable in general regardless of the needs of even green projects, in this case the wind power industry?

As someone who values our parks and wildlife way more than urban sprawl, and who just happens to be living in southern Arizona, I would like to see some suggestions on how to keep trash (litter) from spoiling the beauty of what God created. I grew up in Georgia and Alabama before we had the EPA and saw a lot of my woodsy playgrounds spoiled by people who thought dirt roads = okay to dump trash.

Lee, have you heard about a West Jordan lawmaker who is introducing a bill that will force the federal gov't to give all public land back to the state by 2014? Rep. Ken Ivory (R) is also supporting it.

No, RangerLady, I hadn't heard about that one yet. But the annual legislative circus is just beginning. Ken Ivory is one of the biggest developers and home builders in the state. Something like 83% of our state legislators are involved in real estate, home building, or land development in some way. But there's no conflict of interest there. Nope. None.

It'll be fun to see just how they plan to "force" the government to do that, especially since there is a clause in the State Constitution that cedes "unpatented land" at the time statehood was granted to the Federal government.

Well --- the Salt Lake Tribune just posted an article about this year's anti-Fed blustering in our state legislature. Here's a snippet:

Utah lawmakers are again making noise about taking over federal lands in the state, with one proposal calling for a court battle to control almost all such lands.

Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, has
introduced a bill that would direct the attorney general to file for
declaratory judgment in U.S. District Court on grounds that Congress
promised in the 1894 Utah Enabling Act that it would dispose of its
lands in the state and give Utah schools 5 percent of the proceeds.

“We had a contract,” Sumsion said of the law
that ushered in Utah’s statehood. “It’s been violated. We’re looking
for a remedy.”

Sumsion’s claims — that there was a contract
or, especially, that there’s any legal remedy — are disputed by
constitutional scholars, who expect the state to make no headway in
court. But the lawmaker said the time may be right to challenge those
assumptions, with a U.S. Supreme Court that tends to swing more
conservative than in decades past and is perhaps friendlier to states’

“It’s more plausible we could get a favorable ruling [now],” he said.

And a little more:

"Sumsion, a gubernatorial candidate, would not favor selling Utah’s five
national parks, but instead would make them state parks. He said other
lands, such as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, contain
billions of dollars in mineral deposits that the state could exploit."

You can read the entire mess at:

It would really be interesting if the Feds would simply withhold Federal funding for all the things they spend for in Utah. Utah receives something like $2.50 for every $1 it sends to Washington. But these guys have to try to please the small group of party powerfuls who pull the strings at state caucuses where candidates are selected for the ballot.

And from the Utah State Constitution:

Utah Constitution, Article 3, Section 2:

The people inhabiting
this State do affirm and declare that they forever disclaim all right
and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries
hereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any
Indian or Indian tribes, and that until the title thereto shall have
been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain
subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands
shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the
Congress of the United States. The lands belonging to citizens of the
United States, residing without this State shall never be taxed at a
higher rate than the lands belonging to residents of this State; but
nothing in this ordinance shall preclude this state from taxing, as
other lands are taxed, any lands owned or held by any Indian who has
severed his tribal relations, and has obtained from the United States or
from any person, by patent or other grant, a title thereto, save and
except such lands as have been or may be ranted to any Indian or Indians
under any act of Congress, containing a provision exempting the lands
thus granted from taxation, which last mentioned lands shall be exempt
from taxation so long, and to such extent, as is or may be provided in
the act of Congress granting the same.

How to keep our parks clean:
Put up signs stating...
Packed it in? Pack it out. Violaters will be deported.

I know, I misspelled violators. Deport me.
I also should have been more specific:
Nic en? Paquete hacia fuera. Los infractores serán deportados.

" I probably can't back it all up"
Of course you can't - but that doesn't prevent you from making the accusations.
"Your anti-environmntal stance has been as well documented"
My "anti-environmental stance" LOL. When have I ever taken a stance that is against the environment? I may not agree with your exaggerated claims and unfounded accusations but that hardly makes me "anit-environment".

For Rich - like Lee you dramatically exaggerate. 1505 won't "suspend" any of those acts but will make accommodations for a specific agency implementing a very specific (and immensely important) mission. And 1505 will NOT lead to "every acre of our land have been paved and
contain either densly packed homes, a drill rig or some kind of mine and
after the dollars they have generated are lining the pocket of some of their usually very wealthy friends and contributors" as Lee claimed.

"It might also help all who read your posts to understand where you are
coming from if you would provide some background information on
yourself. Where do you live? What kind of work do you do? Who do you
work for? What possible financial interests do you have in the stances
you espouse here?"
Missed that part Lee. I would be glad to provide that info. I am a real estate broker living in Breckenridge, Colorado. I was an active participant in the 1st Earth Day in 1970, an Eagle Scout and active in the scouting program for decades were I was active in teaching conservation practices and respect for nature. I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 2002 and remain a dedicated outdoors man that contributes much of my time to community service including land preservation and trail building. I have no "financial interests" other than a desire that the US economy not be hindered by emotional pseudo-science that is driven by wealth envy and class warfare.
To find out more about me, visit