Outdoor recreation has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with indoor activities limited. Many state park systems reported record visitation in 2020, while some national parks saw monthly attendance records. Amid this, a new poll has shown that concern for conservation has increased.
Colorado College released its annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll earlier this month. It surveys voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) to get current views on public lands, wildlife, wildfires, pollution, and other issues important to the environment. In 2021’s poll, at least 400 registered voters in each of the participating states were surveyed between January 2 and 13.
Sixty-one percent of participants said they were concerned about the future of nature. In fact, respondents said concerns over loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, inadequate water supplies, pollution in the air and water, the loss of pollinators, worsening wildfires, and climate change were all larger concerns than unemployment.
Katrina Miller-Stevens, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an Assistant Professor at Colorado College, says, “We are seeing strong voter concern for nature, which is translating into calls for bold action on public lands in the West. If federal and state policy leaders are looking for direction on public lands, the view from the West is clear.”
This concern translated into broad support for policies to address these issues. According to the poll, 77% of respondents supported President Joe Biden’s goal of conserving 30% of the country’s land and waters by 2030, 72% supported making public lands a net zero source of carbon pollution, 66% want to see a gradual transition to 100% clean energy within the next 10-15 years, and 91% supported continuing state funding for land, water, and wildlife despite budget concerns.
In regard to the goal of 30% conservation by 2030, 63% of those who identified as Republicans were also on board. Democratic pollster Dave Metz, who co-conducted the survey, says that figure is key.
He explains, “So this really is an area — in a time when we’re talking about unity in setting a policy agenda — this is something that all three parties are strongly behind.”
Republican Lori Weigel worked with Metz on the survey. She said that over the ten years that they’ve been conducting the poll, they’ve noticed that participants feel it’s possible to have a strong economy and commit strongly to conservation. There’s also a growing agreement that there’s economic value and not just fun in the recreation economy, as well as more concern about climate change affecting people’s lives. This is especially true with worsening wildfires and drought.
She says, “I think people are seeing some real (climate-change) impacts and connecting the dots in a way that they didn’t do when we first started this survey project.”
The poll has an effective margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.2%. If you’d like to read more, you can see the findings here.Whizzco