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Poll finds historic bipartisan support among voters to conserve land in the West

Abiquiu, New Mexico
Pedro Szekely
Abiquiu, New Mexico

Fresh, non-partisan polling data from Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project Wednesday is highlighting a historic shift in voter sentiment around climate issues in our region.

The data suggests a majority of voters from both sides of the political aisle worry about the future of our lands, water, and wildlife.

The Colorado College’s 14th annual conservation in the West poll surveyed 3400 voters in 8 intermountain states from Montana to New Mexico about the current state of the climate and potential policy solutions as we head into the 2024 election season.

“We have always seen pretty significant emphasis on conservation across party lines, but this is the first year that we’ve got majorities of all three parties – including 89% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 52% of Republicans indicating that they want Congress to focus more on prioritizing conservation on these lands,” said David Metz, partner with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, one of the firms tasked with polling voters for the study.

So, why are we seeing strong support for conservation policies in the West despite economic pressure for land development?

“Western voters recognize that there are a lot of challenges facing these lands,” Metz said. “Which makes conserving them a higher priority than it might have been in the past.”  

Among the standout issues, three-fourths of New Mexicans surveyed said they totally oppose the removal of any protections placed on national public lands.

Similarly, 88% labeled poor drinking water polluted by the oil and gas industry in lower-income communities as a serious problem.

This year, New Mexico is up for several noteworthy election races in November – including seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Also all the legislative seats are up for election.

Other findings among New Mexican voters include:


  • 59% believe climate change is an extremely or very serious problem
  • 69% have noticed significant effects from climate change over the past ten years


  • 79% support a national goal of conserving 30 percent of America’s land and waters by the year 2030

  • 83% support the creation of new national parks, national monuments national wildlife refuges, and tribal protected areas


  • 64% believe inadequate water supply is a serious problem
  • 74% think that the low level of water in rivers is a serious problem


  • 57% believe that loss of habitat for fish and wildlife is an extremely or very serious problem
  • 80% support constructing wildlife crossing structures across major highways that intersect with known migration routes
  • 74% think more emphasis should be placed on conserving wildlife migration routes than on new development, roads, ranching, or oil and gas production in those areas


  • 63% support only allowing oil and gas companies the right to drill in areas where there is high likelihood to actually produce oil and gas
  • 70% prefer that leaders place more emphasis on protecting water, air, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities over maximizing the amount of land available for drilling and mining

  • 90% support requiring oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished
Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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