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.

Comments

"Westerners vastly prefer that renewable energy development be encouraged in their state, rather than nuclear power or fossil fuels."

Well, of course. If I could wave a magic wand, I wouldn't want garbage trucks trundling down my street at 5:50 a.m. every Thursday.

But I'd still be generating garbage.

I'll be impressed with Westerners' overwhelming preference for squeaky-clean energy when they stop relying on fossil fuels to keep them employed at their jobs, allow them to drive and fly, heat their homes, and manufacture the products they use. Until then, it's merely a hypocritical (but understandable, and very human) attitude. And, for that very reason, not particularly newsworthy.

Hypocritcal? Those are the things we're stuck with. None of it can be changed instantly. But until we can, is it hypocritical to push for clean and renewable energy sources? If no one pushes, nothing will happen.

If you are seeking hypocrites, look to our political "leaders." They are ones who hold the power make decisions that will lead us to the future. If they continue to accept contributions (bribes?) from the current industries, and continue in many cases to obstruct advancement of clean energy sources, isn't that where the real hypocrisy resides?

Lee, could you please identify how development of "clean" energy sources is being "obstructed"?

It's true that we're stuck with these things. But since we are stuck with them, why should people insist that their own nest not be fouled with them and someone else's should be instead? (Well, the answer is obvious; again, people are human.) For example, I bet the U.S. has higher environmental standards for oil extraction than Nigeria or Angola. So every NIMBY insistence that we fill up our motor vehicles (often giant and needlessly oversized vehicles, I might add) with oil from Africa rather than Idaho not only pollutes the planet more overall, but also runs the risk of immiserating the people who live there and have no say in what happens. Doesn't seem very nice to me. And yes, for this reason, I'd be willing to accept an oil refinery within five miles of my house, even though I wouldn't like it.

Imtnbke is right. This kind of "poll" is totally bogus. Sure everyone wants less pollution. Who could rationally "want" more? But unless the question is put in context i.e. how much will that less pollution cost or what will one have to give up to get it, the responses are meaningless. The only value of this kind of poll is for people to misuse the results, like the author of this article did juxtaposing a response to a question about selling off public lands to a statement about politicians wanting to return the lands to the states.

Not sure I follow you ec on misusing the results by "juxtaposing a response to a question about selling off public lands to a statement about politicians wanting to return the lands to the states."

According to the poll, a vast majority of the respondents see national parks and national forests as providing an economic boost to their counties and states, and value those lands for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in general.

If you look at the movements in Utah and New Mexico, some politicians in those states believe they could make more more in part through royalties and severance taxes exacted on public lands and, in the case of New Mexico, selling those lands to private parties for development that would generate tax income.

Where's the misuse?

The misuse is the fact that the vast majority of the lands, if given to the states, would not be sold to private interests. Second the poll didn't ask about selling federal land. Further suppose the question was "Do you think some federal land could be sold without impacting hunting fishing and outdoor recreation in general?". The answer would likely be overwhelmingly yes.

According to the pollsters: Only 27% support selling some public lands.

It would certainly seem as if they asked that specific question for them to come up with that specific statement.

And to flip the coin, can you prove/document that states would not sell federal lands if they sudden came into their control?

So far the proposals in Utah and New Mexico have gotten the most attention, and in New Mexico one of the proponents was quoted as saying he'd like to see some of that land become private because private landowners pay taxes.

The Utah legislation, meanwhile, provides language as to how the profits would be shared with the federal government if the state later sold the lands.

And really, does it matter if the state turns around and sells the lands to developers/private interests, or holds onto it and leases it out to those interests? The end result can be the same in terms of lost recreational opportunities and lost revenues tied to the drawing power of national parks and forests. Just look at the clamoring over turning Pinnacles National Monument into Pinnacles National Park. It's all about the cachet of "national park.:

So, no, I don't think it was misuse, ec, I think it was just putting some context behind the question asked by the pollsters. And I appreciate the fact that you disagree. Context often is missing in polling questions, as imtnbke noted, and nuance is applied by pollsters in interpreting those results, and by those who object/support the results.

As for imtnbke's position that the poll isn't particularly newsworthy, how can voters not attempt to influence their politicians if they don't voice their views? Polling is one attempt at that.

Now, there's no doubt many would blanche at the cost of giving up fossil fuels, but if they don't state their desire to move away from them, how much effort would elected politicians put into trying to make that happen?

A poll from the 80s showed that a vast majority of men like getting "money for nothing, and chicks for free". :)

I'm not sure that this poll says much, other than people like nice concepts that don't involve costs. The fact is that the more we protect our resources, the more we tax our neighbors'. We log less and less wood in the US (a true renewable resource) so that we can import more from Canada. I don't see this as particularly helpful in the big picture.

A tiny bit of an aside, but I found the short video in this article to be very salient reagarding weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels, the crux of so many issues...http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/14317-nate-hagens-things-are-not-going-to-be-as-easy-over-the-next-forty-years


Only 27% support selling some public lands


So 73% don't believe there is even an acre of federal land that can be sold off? That shows you either how bogus the poll is or how clueless the population is. Take your choice.

Or how accurate the poll is and how clueless are those who advocate sale of public land.

Take your choice.

Lee - do you actually believe there isn't a single acre of federal land that could be sold without negative impacts? And I am still waiting to here from you on the obstruction of clean energy.

I'm not going to get into an endless argument. But here is a link to a Salt Lake Tribune editorial that pretty well sums up the Utah GOP viewpoint on energy.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/55592596-82/energy-utah-renewable-development.html.csp

And I never said there were NO portions of federal land that could not be sold without negative impact. I advocate wisdom and proper management over greed.

However, even in Utah there may be some glimmers of hope.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/55750965-82/bramble-energy-wind-conservative.html.csp


I'm not going to get into an endless argument.


In other words, you can't provide examples of where it is being "obstructed".


"And I never said there were NO portions of federal land that could not be sold without negative impact."


But for 73%, that was their answer in the poll. Again, it just shows how bogus the poll was.

ec, I am all for selling some Federal land that might be from a closed Post Office or something similar. So I guess I cannot say that I would have answered the question correctly. Because I would vote to not sell federal land that is part of the National Forrest, Parks, etc... maybe the poll should have been more precise for you.


I would vote to not sell federal land that is part of the National Forrest, Parks, etc..


The Forest Service, NPS and BLM own over 500 million acres or 25% of the country's land. Much (if not most) acquired randomly with no regard for its nature, science, recreational value. 84% of Nevada is federal land. 57% of Utah. You would put an outright ban on selling any of that? Drive US 50 through Nevada and Utah and then tell me how the sale of some of that land would impact hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in general.


maybe the poll should have been more precise for you.


But it intentially wasn't. That way it is easier to manipulate the data to support an agenda.

"But it intentially (sic) wasn't. That way it is easier to manipulate the data to support an agenda."

That's a pretty big claim. Can you back it up?

By the way, it's not at all uncommon for Federal land to be sold.

Lee - check out the bios of the poll authors. These are excerpts taken from their websites.

Weigel also has a unique niche as a “conservative conservationist.” She has polled extensively for conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, National Wildlife Federation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Wilderness Society, Smart Growth America, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. This has included extensive research on energy policy, land conservation, and water quality issues.

Metz has provided research to win some of the nation's most expensive and contentious ballot measure campaigns. These include all of the largest conservation finance measures in national history, including five successful statewide bond measures providing $15 billion to protect land and water in California, as well as major statewide measures in Minnesota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Oregon. In 2010 his research helped guide the campaign against California's Proposition 23 to an overwhelming victory with 62 percent of the vote, successfully defending the nation's strongest state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His research on the issue of “regulatory takings” helped the environmental community reverse a string of ballot measure losses and win five consecutive campaigns in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

No - no bias there. No Agenda. These are two professional "conservationist" whose job it is to influence public opinion in favor of their clients including The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, National Wildlife Federation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Wilderness Society, Smart Growth America, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solution.

Sounds like they do some good work. We need more folks like them.

Yes Lee, deceiving the public is "such good work". You know like "hide the decline".

Well, I'm sure other Travelers can make their own decisions about this. I'll leave it to them.

Sure. I would love to know what other readers agree with you that deceiving the public is "good work".

But first, deceit must be proved. There are many reputable researchers on all sides of every question. Opinions about their level of "reputability" are not proof. Just because someone doesn't agree with their conclusions does not mean the research was not properly done.

I wish this article had included more information about this survey -- questions asked and other important things. Then we would all be able to better judge the quality of the study.

But based on personal experience and conversations with others in Utah, and news reports here, I believe the survey was a pretty good reflection of opinions here.

The entire survey and methodology is linked in the article. The deception (when you know the facts) is obvious from the start. The impression they try to give you is that this is an unbiased poll by a Republican and Democratic polling company. In reality, both pollsters have a strong "envirnomentilst" bias and brag about their prowess in influencing public opinion To support their agendas. There was no "research" done here. There was a collection of loaded questions that they used to support their agenda.

Does the poll reveal that its respondents do not have an especially nuanced understanding of the issues? And do the pollsters have an agenda? Maybe. Which means this poll resembles most polls. But the article nevertheless makes a pretty good point:


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

"When you know the facts" is entirely subjective and based on whose propaganda one has decided to accept. Environmentalist or anti-environment is a choice. Hopefully there are still a few people in the world who haven't yet become completely indoctrinated in either direction.

Anyway, keep smiling.


Environmentalist or anti-environment is a choice.


Perhaps, but I am not aware of anyone that identifies themself as an "anti-environmentalist" Some have proclaimed an "environmental" bias but usually is is based in economic jealousy and anti-capitalism. No one proclaims being "anti-environment". You may argue that capitalism has negative effects on the environment. But if you do, you should use real science not biased "polls" from folks that deceive the public and have an obvious (to anyone that makes the effort to investigate) agenda.

For Justin - what is the "pretty good point". That folks can be deceived into appearing to support most anything?


For Justin - what is the "pretty good point". That folks can be deceived into appearing to support most anything?


You did (can) read my post, right?

Yes Justin i can/did. And you think a totally bogus and deceitful poll makes a good point? I guess you are one that agrees with Lee that deceiving the public is " good work".

What makes the poll "totally bogus and deceitful"? Show me the questions asked in the poll that support your claim.

My problem with selling off Federal Land is where does it stop. The simple answer to the poll question is "don't sell our Federal Land" because when you start...you do not know when to stop. Just because the Land on US 50 does not support recreation etc.. does not mean it should be sold to somebody.

I agree with David Crowl's last comment--where does it stop? And ecbuck, you lost me when you made this comment: "Drive US 50 through Nevada and Utah and then tell me how the sale of some of that land would impact hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in general." Our public lands have a lot more value than just what they can provide to humans...they will likely provide the last bits of almost natural habitat for native species. It is past time to start protecting land for the sake of the land, not just for what we want to "do" with it.

Justin - It isn't so much the questions is is the way the data is used. Although there is some issues with the question methodology. Notice for the problems there are three possible responses that it is a problem and only one that it isn't. That clearly skews the responses to their being a problem.

The author of this piece is trying to show that the politicians aren't in line with the thoughts of the people. But, did the author give the politicians the same survey to reach that conclusion? No, although that would have been the most accurate way to compare their positions. Instead they compared the survey responses to political actions. The problem is, those political actions aren't made in a vacuum. The politicians have to consider the consequences of their decisions both intended and unintended. They need to set priorities. Everyone wants open space, clean water, less pollution but those come at a cost of jobs, dependence on foreign oil, cuts to spending on health care all of which ranked higher as concerns.

imtnbike nailed it at the start of this thread. Its easy to say you want things. It is quite a different story when you have to make decisions that have a cost.

The survey offers issue-by-issue two contrarian viewpoints, and respondents can agree/disagree with either. That's routine polling. If that makes it a "totally bogus and deceitful poll," then I'm not sure what polls wouldn't be.


The author of this piece is trying to show that the politicians aren't in line with the thoughts of the people.


Not exactly. It states that "a poll of Western attitudes on the environment shows some disagreement with politicians over public lands stewardship and energy generation." If you place the answers given by repsondents side-by-side with public statements made by, say, Steve Pearce, Rob Bishop, Doc Hastings, the point bears out pretty clearly.

Once again Justin, you ignore that the politicians statements are made made in the context of a multitude of competing issues and with the cost and consequenses of such actions in mind. They are not blissfully ignorant, black and white decisions as the either or questions would imply.

I'm not ignoring that. It just doesn't have anything to do with the point I am making. (Take another look at my posts above.)

Justin and Barbara, you can spend eternity "discussing" things with ec, but he'll ignore, twist, slip, slide and blither until long after the sun goes down. He has officially declared the poll to be "bogus" so that is all anyone needs to know.

Spouting anti-environmental stuff is apparently some sort of hobby -- even though he won't admit to being in the anti-environmental camp. Personally, I think it's pathetic that anyone can't see the beauty around us for the dollars in the way. But that's just my opinion and until someone can provide a poll that convinces me that dollars are more important than our planet, I probably won't change my thinking.

Your posts make sense and that apparently upsets him. But keep posting because keeping folks like him in a froth is a lot of fun when the weather outside is frightful.

Rob Bishop got shot down on a couple of items in the last session, so he's at it again. Here are two items from today's NPS Digest's legislative action report:

H.R. 2398 (Bishop, R-UT-1), to prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from taking action on Federal lands that impede border security on such lands, and for other purposes.

That one is a resurrection of his attempt to strip away any environmental regulations on lands within 100 miles of our borders.

The next one contains some blatant gifts to the ORV industry:

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.

The fact that the department was not invited to testify indicates that Bishop is using one of this favorite tactics from his "town hall meetings." He's very good at controlling the questions and statements that might come from the crowd. The usual practice at one of his sessions is to require that attendees submit questions or comment in writing to some of his minions at the meeting. They are then able to screen out any that may be embarrassing or require an honest answer.

Thanks for the post, Lee.

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.


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.

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.

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...

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.

Rick

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.

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