Poll Finds Strong Support for Colorado Wilderness

According to a poll released today by a coalition of Colorado conservation groups, there is strong and broad support for protecting additional public lands as wilderness.  Dean of the Colorado Congressional delegation, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) joined representatives of The Wilderness Society, Colorado Environmental Coalition, and the Wilderness Workshop, in trumpeting the results as evidence that Coloradans support expanded protections for wild areas.

The survey was conducted by Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy, Inc., a public opinion and market research firm in Boulder, Colorado.  The results of this survey are based on 617 random phone interviews with Colorado residents, conducted May 1 to 14, 2007.  The margin of error is +/- 3.9%.

Poll wording details and video from this morning’s press conference are available after the jump…The survey finds that by better than two-to-one, Coloradans favor expanding protected wilderness areas in the state by one million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands, based on the following question wording:

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, manages some eight million acres of public lands in Western Colorado, much of it rugged canyons and sagebrush country. Some people have proposed that Congress designate just over 1 million of these 8 million acres as wilderness, which would protect these lands for hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, other non-motorized recreation, and livestock grazing, but would prohibit such activities as mining, oil and gas development, road building, and off-road vehicle and mountain bike use.  This proposal would leave more than six and a half million acres, or more than 80% of BLM land in Colorado, open to oil and gas development, as well as for motorized recreational vehicle use, such as by jeeps and snowmobiles.  Do you support or oppose this proposal to protect roughly one million acres of additional BLM land as wilderness?

According to the memo released by Talmey-Drake, there is at least majority support for such an expansion of wilderness lands across political and geographic lines.

This support appears to be a reflection of Coloradans’ pro-wilderness attitudes and values.  The survey also found 80% of Coloradans agree with the view, “the presence of nearby wilderness helps define Colorado and is an important reason why I choose to live here.”

Similarly, 90% of respondents agree with the statement “wilderness areas support hunting, fishing, and tourism activities that are important to the state and local mountain economies.”  The survey also indicates that 71% of Coloradans agree that “Colorado’s public lands should not be sacrificed any more than they are now to meet the energy needs of the country, particularly when we have clean energy alternatives like wind and solar power available, as well as many opportunities for conservation.”

In contrast, far fewer survey respondents agreed with pro-energy views.  Specifically, only 33% agree, while 57% disagree, that “We should not be designating more lands as wilderness because we need all remaining public lands to be available for energy development so that we can maximize our oil and gas production here at home.”

Rep. DeGette had this to say about the poll:

Sen. Ken Salazar could not attend the event, but Erin Minks from Salazar’s office read a letter from the senator:

Mark Mehringer is President of Research for Change, Inc., a consulting firm that provides political opinion research and strategy guidance for progressive causes and campaigns.