A phone survey conducted by the firm Third Eye Strategies identified that 95% of county voters polled on public lands including parks, forests and open spaces, found them “important” and 83% identified them as “very important.”
Other findings showed a number of topics bring Taos County residents together on lands issues, including the frequency of visitations and use of public lands, opposition to state take-overs of federally managed lands, the value of the Pecos Wilderness, and the future of protecting nearby areas from development or irreversible impacts.
“With so many forces driving us apart, the importance of public lands, wilderness, and the Pecos Wilderness brings nearly all of voters in Taos County together,” said the lead on the poll, Stephen Claremont of Third Eye Strategies. “Voters in Taos tell us public land and wilderness are very important to the quality of their lives and they support greater protection for wilderness surrounding the Pecos.”
In the last three years:
- 74% of those polled have camped or hiked on public lands and 43% have fished.
- Taos County voter households also used public lands for hunting (21%), and horseback riding (21%).
- nearly four-fifths of those surveyed (79%) have utilized public lands in some way.
“Over the past five years the administration has listened to our community and has protected our culture and traditional values that are so closely tied to this land and water,” said Esther Garcia, former mayor of Questa, NM. “Now, these areas will be available to all future generations. That is something that everyone should feel good about and is something our community will reap the benefits of, both economically and personally, for many years to come."
In addition to showing heavy use and value of New Mexico’s public lands, the neighboring Pecos Wilderness and the future of this area, including legislation to keep forest lands free from extractive industry and commercial development ranked high among those polled. After hearing some background information, 78% favor and support legislation to protect the roadless areas surrounding the existing Pecos Wilderness. This includes Hispanics and Anglos, and those who identify as democratic, republican or independent.
“Taos County has become a national model for its proud tradition of protecting public lands,” said Ernie Atencio, Taos resident and board member of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “People in Taos County intuitively get the connection between our natural resources and our rich cultural heritage--our natural and cultural landscape--it makes us who we are. It isn’t surprising that they want to safeguard the critical watersheds adjacent to the Pecos and to make sure that future generations have the same opportunities for recreation and traditional uses as we have now.”
The poll highlights the growing need for elected officials and county leaders to work with local communities, recreationists, conservationists and others who care about the viability of these areas.