Support for natural resource protection crosses party lines
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The message may not have yet reached the divisive Republican leadership of the anti-environmental House Resources Committee, but Western voters favor effective protection of clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.
Results from the recent 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that Colorado voters across the political spectrum — from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement — view Colorado’s parks and public lands as essential to the economy.
“We know that visitors come to Durango because of all of the outdoor opportunities they can experience in our backyard. For our business, protecting land and the Colorado River is part of our business model,” said Kirk Komick, owner of the Leland House and Rochester Hotel in Durango.
“Coloradans love this state because of the outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching,” said Suzanne O’Neill, director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Protecting our land, clean air, and streams requires balancing energy development on public lands with safeguards for important wildlife habitat and open space for all of us to access and enjoy.”
The survey, completed by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that nearly 8 in 10 Colorado voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible. Voters are near-unanimous in their view that Colorado’s national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of the state economy, and residents’ quality of life.
Two-thirds of Colorado voters want to reduce America’s need for coal, oil and gas by expanding use of clean, renewable energy — which they see as a local job creator; the same percentage of voters do not want corporate profit and development of public lands to limit public access. Three in four voters want to uphold industry regulations that protect Colorado’s land, air, and water, and see these regulations as having a positive impact on the natural beauty of their state, and their quality of life.
The survey also tested voter attitudes on local issues and elected officials. Sixty-seven percent of Colorado voters Governor John Hickenlooper a favorable rating. More than 80 percent agree that, that despite state budget problems, investments in Colorado’s parks, water and wildlife should be maintained. Seventy-six percent want state Lottery funds to continue to be used to protect parks, wildlife habitat, and natural areas and school construction, instead of being redirected to the general state education budget. Sixty-six percent support protection of some of the lands in the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument.
“Sportsmen put their money where their mouth is when it comes to funding conservation,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We were pleased to see that overwhelming majorities of Colorado voters recognize the importance of funding protection of our land, water and wildlife even in the face of state budget problems. In particular, Coloradans remain deeply committed to using lottery funds to support our state’s natural areas.”
The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six key western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 and 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of plus 2.0 percent nationwide and plus 4.9 statewide.
The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website: http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies/conservationinthewestsurvey_e.html