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Busting 11 Myths about Westerners and Conservation

A new poll of eight Western states reveals that most people are actually on the same page about public lands, renewable energy, and the importance of outdoor recreation

More than two-thirds of those who responded said that either solar or wind was their first choice of energy development in their state. (iStock)
Fuel and Power Generation

On Thursday morning, Colorado College released its Conservation in the West poll, which it has conducted since 2011. The survey asks voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho (added this year), Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah for their opinions on everything from energy development to national monuments, water usage to recreation. It also asks about political affiliation, a question that, not surprisingly, tends to matter a lot. So what did voters say? We took a look at the numbers.

More People Identify as a Conservationist

In 2016, 63 percent of respondents said they’d call themselves one. This year, it was 76 percent.

Latinos Are a Growing Force in the Movement

The number who now identify as conservationists is 75 percent—an 18 percent increase since 2016.

74 Percent of Westerners Recreate Outdoors

The most popular activities were hiking (63 percent), camping (57 percent), and bird and wildlife viewing (37 percent).

The Outdoor Economy Matters

Ninety-three percent said that it was important to the economic future of the West. Those numbers were identical whether respondents identified as Republicans, Independents, or Democrats.

Protection Is More Important Than Production

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said it was more important to protect public lands than to produce energy on them. (Wyoming was the only state where it was even close—39 percent people there said production was more important.) The lowest amount of support came from Republicans. Even then, 43 percent favored protection and only 37 favored production.

Most People Don’t Like the National Monument Reductions

Overall, two-thirds of respondents said it was a bad idea to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. A majority in every state thought it was a bad idea, except for Utah, where 49 percent said it was a bad idea and 46 percent said it was a good one.

And They’d Rather There Not Be More Reductions

Just under 70 percent said it was a bad idea to reduce the size of existing national monuments. Even in Utah, 56 percent were against it.

Westerners Really Dislike D.C. Politicians

Seventy-nine percent said their values were not shared by politicians in D.C. Local politicians fare a little better—only 49 percent say their state officials don’t share their values.

They’re Really Worried About Water and Fires

More than 80 percent said that low water conditions were a significant concern, and 47 percent said the same about uncontrollable wildfires.

They’d Rather See Water Conservation than Diversion

Only 13 percent said more water should be diverted to cities to meet their needs, while 78 percent said they’d rather see more conservation and water recycling efforts.

Renewable Energy Is Super Popular

More than two-thirds of those who responded said that either solar or wind was their first choice of energy development in their state. (Coal and oil were chosen by eight percent.) The only state that didn’t pick renewables as the top two preferred sources of energy? Wyoming, which chose coal and natural gas.

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