Poll finds broad support for conservation in Western U.S. states
California may be facing a $22.5 billion deficit that could impact conservation funding and 30x30 priorities. But a recent Conservation in the West Poll shows strong support for conservation policies throughout western U.S. states despite budget shortfalls and factors such as inflation, drought, water shortages, and overcrowding.
The poll found majority support for conservation goals including protecting wildlife habitats and migration routes, ensuring healthier forests, preventing light pollution that blocks out stars, and safeguarding drinking water. Eighty-two percent of Westerners support 30x30, the national goal of conserving 30 percent of land and inland waters in America, and 30 percent of ocean areas, by the year 2030. Support for that goal is up nine percent since 2020 with opposition dropping by five percent in that period.
Some 84 percent of Westerners support use of presidential power to designate public lands as national monuments, maintain public access, and protect the land and wildlife for future generations.
Voters expressed growing concern about issues that impact western U.S. lifestyles, specifically as it relates to overcrowding in the Mountain West as more people move into the region. As a result, voters are concerned for their way of life, access to adequate drinking water, access to the outdoors, and protecting wildlife.
Concern about water scarcity is high, with a majority labeling it a crisis. “This year voters in the West have a lot on their minds, but they are not willing to trade one priority for another,” said director of the State of the Rockies Project and associate professor at Colorado College Katrina Miller-Stevens. “High gas prices, increasing costs of living, and water shortage concerns are not enough to move Westerners to reconsider their consistent support for conservation policies or seek out short-sighted solutions that put land and water at risk. In fact, people in the West want to continue our progress to protect more outdoor spaces.”
Survey respondents prioritized preserving public land for conservation and recreation rather than fossil fuel drilling. They also want America to direct funding toward access to parks for people of color who‘ve historically lacked outdoor access.
“Latino, Black and indigenous voters care strongly about protecting our environment. When we talk about conservation, we’re talking about our health, the economy, and social justice,” says Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Communities of color are impacted and suffer the most in these areas, especially from the Colorado River crisis. We must acknowledge environmental racism and inequality of access. This poll is confirmation that BIPOC communities are ready to be heard.”
The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in eight Western states for a total 3,413-voter sample. The survey was conducted between January 5-22, 2023, with an effective margin of error of +2.4%.