Poll: Western voters see wild lands as vital to economy

Mather Point at Grand Canyon

flickr: Grand Canyon NPS

Poll shows value of wilderness is unquestionable to those living in the West.

Westerners think that public lands in national parks, forests and wildlife refuges contribute to their quality of life as well as their state's economic prosperity, according to a recent poll by Colorado College. According to the Conservation in the West poll, an impressive 91% believe that public lands are "essential" to local economies and 71% oppose sale of such lands.

The poll was conducted in six western states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. 

The Outdoor Industry Association recently released a series of reports for all 50 states, demonstrating how recreation supports economies through direct spending, jobs, salaries as well as tax revenue.

Politicians who are in a hurry to lease out and sell off public lands to the oil and gas industry and other development should take notice of these findings.  

Urge President Obama to make conservation a priority.

Westerners want conservation 

Among the findings of the Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll:

  • 71% believe development of public lands will hurt their economy and quality of life

  • 79% of westerners believe public lands enhance their quality of life and support their economy

  • 74% believe wild lands attract desirable employers and jobs to their state

  • 56% think that environmentally sensitive public lands should be permanently protected from oil and gas drilling

  • 63% of Westerners describe themselves as “conservationist”

  • 50% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats say they view candidates from their own party more favorably if they support public land protection

71% of westerners believe development of public lands will hurt their economy and quality of life

Slideshow: A glimpse at lands that have created recreation money for western states


Interestingly, despite these attitudes, Westerners are still pretty unaware of the threats that oil and gas development poses to wild public lands. As the report states,"energy production on public lands has flown under the radar of most Westerners. Only 34% of those interviewed know with certainty that oil and gas drilling is occurring on some public lands. Nearly twice as many think this is not true, and significant proportions in every state simply say they don’t know enough to say one way or the other."

If more people  were only aware that oil and gas companies are locking up tens of millions of acres of our public lands, they may be more alarmed about this aspect of land use. 

This is why The Wilderness Society works to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. In addition to supporting recreational activities that boost quality of life, we advocate for responsible development to ensure that wild lands can support America's economies now and in the future.
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