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Poll in Mountain West swing states shows strong support for land conservation

A soaptree yucca in White Sands National Park, New Mexico.
White Sands National Park, Flickr
A soaptree yucca in White Sands National Park, New Mexico.

News brief

With the midterm elections coming up,a poll shows that Mountain West voters value public lands, and that interest may lead them to candidates supporting the environment.

Benenson Strategy Group polled about 2,000 people across Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona in May about public lands and the outdoors for the Center for Western Priorities.

Deputy Director Aaron Weiss says before pollsters began conservation-focused questions they asked an open-ended one: What are your concerns as a voter in the West?

“They immediately go to things like water shortages, wildfires, fire mitigation, drought and climate change,” said Weiss. “We see that across the board politically.”

Those polled said politicians in Washington, D.C. don’t understand or don’t pay enough attention to these issues. Weiss adds that candidates vowing to protect public lands should consider swing voters “winnable.”

Beyond strong support for public lands, the center was curious about the impact of high gas prices.

The poll shows Democrats support investing in renewable resources while Republicans would increase oil and gas development. But independents swing for renewable energy.

“Westerners see clean energy as the solution to the current energy crisis and are frustrated with oil companies,” according to a press release.

The poll also asked if people supported particular projects in their state. In New Mexico, almost 60% of voters support a 20-year ban on oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of Chaco Canyon.

About 80% of voters in Colorado support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. Among many things, it would protect over 400,000 acres of land across the state.

And in Nevada, almost 80% of voters support a national monument designation for Spirit Mountain, in the southern part of the state.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.