Poll: No Trump mandate for gutting environment

Cage Skidmore, flickr.

Just days after the election, President-elect Donald Trump sent a signal about the direction of environment and energy policy by tapping climate-science denier Myron Ebell to lead the transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PBS’ Frontline sums up his record this way, “he’s been described as “enemy #1” to the climate change community, and his own bio highlights how he has been named a “climate criminal” by Greenpeace.” Trump himself has famously called climate change a “hoax.”*

So does the Trump election victory amount to a mandate to undo bedrock environmental protections and reverse course in the fight on climate change? A bipartisan poll The Wilderness Society commissioned over election day finds quite the opposite, Americans have no stomach for environmental rollbacks on our public lands.

Here’s two key findings:

  • Most Americans, 71 percent, support the TWS approach of transitioning away from oil and gas development on public lands toward conservation and clean energy development. Those majorities are even stronger in the west, where most public lands are found.
  • Americans remain concerned about the impacts of climate change on public lands, particularly on our national parks. Seventy percent said they were somewhat or very concerned about the impacts, according to the 2016 Lake Research election eve poll we commissioned. In the west, concern is even higher, at 75 percent among voters.

Still, Donald Trump is saying he’s ready to make a ridiculous overreach, and not just as campaign rhetoric. He’s now saying it as President-Elect. In a video message November 21, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to "cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy.” Make no mistake, that’s code for rolling back environmental safeguards on public lands. 

The Lake Research Partners poll isn’t a fluke, other polls have shown the public has no appetite for rolling back these safeguards. A 2016 Colorado College poll of western voters showed almost nobody supports the extractive industry lobbyists agenda. In that poll, a mere 10 percent of likely western voters said they wanted more drilling, and similarly, only 10 percent said we should rollback safeguards. What did get a majority of support among likely voters was MORE safeguards. More.

So let’s get something clear. The American people did not vote for the next administration to hand management of our public lands over to energy developers. These lands are owned by the U.S. taxpayers and intended to be managed for many uses, including recreation, wildlife habitat and cultural preservation. Americans know some places on our public lands are simply too special to develop, and the Trump administration would do well to learn from—not repeat—the last 100 years of conflict and controversy.

*This week, Mr. Trump did tell an assembly of New York Times reporters he was open to revisiting his previous comments on the Paris climate accords. On the campaign trail, he had said he would pull the U.S. out of the agreement.