Commissioner weighs in on renewable energy

Western voter poll acknowledges solar and wind energy as priorities

By Paige Blankenbuehler - Summit Daily News

The Wilderness Society released a western poll on voters' attitudes toward renewable-energy development on public lands Wednesday that showed broad support of solar and wind energy programs.

“In western Colorado we're working toward sustainability on two fronts — economically and environmentally, and that means developing wind and solar while protecting our precious natural resources,” said Dan Gibbs, Summit County commissioner. “The lands, wildlife and quality of life that make Summit County a spectacular place to recreate and to visit are also vital to our thriving economy.”

A bi-partisan poll of western voters, conducted July 30- Aug. 5 found that the “public supports wind and solar energy development on public lands, and overwhelmingly wants to see revenues from those projects dedicated to local communities to help offset their impacts to wildlife habitat and recreation activities, including hunting and fishing,” according to the release.

The poll found that 73 percent of western voters support the responsible production of wind and solar energy on public lands.

When it comes to the use of conservation dollars from solar and wind energy rents, 85 percent of those surveyed want to see rent payments returned to local communities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and 81 percent support funds going toward setting aside key areas for parks, refuges and conservation areas.

As new energy sources like wind and solar power develop, some of those facilities may be built on federally managed public lands.

“Wind and solar on public lands have come a long way in a short time,” said Chase Huntley, clean energy policy director at The Wilderness Society. “As this poll shows, American voters want to see Congress move forward with bi-partisan legislation that will pay back local communities, wildlife and the land they all depend upon.”

The poll was based on 1,945 interviews conducted from a sample of registered voters from 11 states: Colorado, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

“Sportsmen walk to every corner of our public lands, they know what is going on out there, and they can sense changes in the land and in the wildlife,” said Bill Schenk, a sportsmen and outdoor enthusiast from Montana. “Encouraging policies and legislation that balance renewable energy development with the interests of sportsmen would be wise advice indeed.”