Colorado Voters Outline Priorities for Trump Administration on Public Lands in New Survey
Support for public land protections, improved recreation access and renewable energy investments remain high in Colorado as leadership changes hands in Washington
COLORADO SPRINGS—Colorado voters weighed in on the Trump Administration’s priorities for managing the use and protection of national public lands in a new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today.
The poll, now in its seventh year, surveyed the views of voters in seven Mountain West states on some of the most pressing issues involving public lands as the new administration begins its time in office.
Asked what the Trump Administration should emphasize, 69 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That compared to 22 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration place an emphasis on producing more domestic energy by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.
Looking to potential actions the Trump Administration might undertake on public lands, voters in Colorado prioritized efforts that improve access, support the outdoor recreation economy and invest in renewable energy. Drilling for oil and gas or mining for coal on public lands was much less popular with voters.
93 percent of respondents supported improving and repairing infrastructure in national parks and other outdoor destinations.
77 percent of respondents supported allowing more wind and solar energy projects on public lands.
81 percent of respondents supported improving access to public lands for hunters, anglers and hikers.
75 percent of respondents supported promoting the outdoor economy.
65 percent of respondents supported streamlining the ability for hunting, rafting and other recreation activities to receive permits to operate on public lands.
33 percent of respondents supported allowing oil and gas companies to purchase the right to drill in new areas of national public lands.
29 percent of respondents supported allowing more coal mining on public lands.
“As leadership changes hands in Washington D.C., and Congress votes in new budget rules removing any monetary value from public lands, voters in Colorado are sending a clear statement that they do not want to see a dramatic change of course when it comes to national public lands,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project.
Approval of the federal land management agencies was high as the new administration begins its tenure. 78 percent of respondents approved of the U.S. Forest Service, 86 percent approved of the National Park Service, 79 percent approved of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and 55 percent approved of the Bureau of Land Management.
The poll asked voters about efforts to turn national public lands owned by all Americans over to state government control. The proposal remained unpopular, with 60 percent of respondents opposed.
“The national political winds change direction every few years, but a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands remain constant in the Mountain West,” said Montana Governor Steve Bullock. “Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life in Montana and in surrounding states. We have too much to lose if we allow these national treasures to be put at risk.”
The idea of removing existing national monument designations put in place over the past decade to protect public lands was a non-starter for Colorado voters. 83 percent of respondents supported keeping the monument designations in place compared to just 10 percent who wanted them removed.
The poll showed strong support for cleaner forms of energy in Colorado. Voters pointed to solar, wind and renewable energy as their top choice when asked about the types of business and jobs they would like to encourage more of, outpacing the technology and healthcare industries.
When it comes to oil and gas drilling on public lands, voters in Colorado continued to support a balanced approach. 47 percent said oil and gas drilling should continue in some areas while permanently protecting environmentally sensitive places. 39 percent believed oil and gas drilling on public lands should be strictly limited, while just 10 percent favored opening public lands up to more expansive drilling.
A Bureau of Land Management rule to require oil and gas producers who operated on national public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process received widespread approval, with 83 percent of respondents wanting the policy to continue. Members of Congress are in the process of using the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the policy.
The drought remained a top concern this year, as 71 percent of respondents said low levels of waters in rivers was a serious issue facing their state.
This is the seventh consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2017 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of seven Western states (AZ, CO, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 2,800-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2016 and early January 2017 and has a margin of error of +/-2.74 percent nationwide and +/ -4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.