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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Poll: Voters support conserving public lands over drilling them

A poll of voters living in nine states in the mountain west region conducted for the Center for American Progress shows strong support for achieving balance between energy development on public lands and conservation of those precious lands. 

This is particularly important, because, in my view, these states are generally accustomed and relatively friendly to resource extraction on public lands.

The poll by Hart Research Associates found that: 
  • 65 percent of voters (across party lines) say that permanently protecting and conserving public lands for future generations is very important to them;
  • 63 percent of voters are concerned with preserving access to recreation opportunities on public lands;
  • 49 percent of voters want the government to focus more on conserving public lands;
  • Only 30 percent of voters say that making sure that oil and gas resources on public lands are available for development is an important priority; and
  • Only 29 percent of voters want the government to focus on more opportunities for oil and gas drilling.

Hart highlighted these findings from the poll: 

  • Parks, communities, and water sources rise to the top of places that should be off limits: nearly half of voters say drilling should not be allowed on national parks (48%), public lands near where people live (47%), and water sources (46%). Only 10% do not choose any type of public lands to be off limits.
  • Voters reject the idea that there must be a single-minded, “either/or” approach to public lands. When explicitly given the opportunity to choose a third option, a majority (55%) instead say the government should put conservation on equal ground with drilling for oil and gas.
  • A large majority (78%) of voters strongly favor using some of the money collected from oil and natural gas drilling on public lands to repair damage caused by drilling to land, fish, and wildlife habitat. I’ve proposed something similar for Pennsylvania.

Western states voters are not alone in their collective wisdom and common sense.  A September, 2011 poll found that a whopping 72 percent of Pennsylvania voters oppose opening up more of our state forestland for gas drilling.

It’s clear that American voters support balanced management and conservation of their public lands - balance that is an essential part of the industry's increasingly fragile social license to operate. Do our elected representatives, regulators, and the industry know and respect our views?

That is up to all of us.

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