Note To Militia Occupiers: Westerners Actually Prefer Feds Run Public Lands

Jan 11, 2016

A majority of Westerners agree that Yellowstone National Park and other public lands should remain under the management of the federal government.

A militia group occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon argues that Westerners want to turn federal lands over to states and private interests. But a new poll released Monday shows that’s not the case.

A majority of voters in seven Rocky Mountain states say they oppose state or private control of public lands. Wyoming was more split on the subject with about 54% of respondents in agreement, compared to 87% in Utah, 59% in Colorado and 63% in Arizona.

When it comes to energy development, Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says 52% of Westerners are okay with drilling on public lands, but only if there are more safety measures for the environment.

“Westerners take a common sense approach when it comes to energy,” he says. “These findings help capture the enthusiasm in the region for renewable energy. And they also help capture that Westerners are comfortable with a balanced approach to oil and gas development.”

Westerners say they also want to see more renewable energy development, especially solar.

Lori Weigel with Public Opinion Strategies helped conduct the bipartisan poll. She says 79% of Wyomingites said federally-run public lands help the state’s economy, the highest of all the states in that category. She says there’s a good reason Wyoming scored so high.

“63% say they consider themselves to be a conservationists. That’s highest in Montana and Wyoming at 71%. And that’s where we also see the greatest proportion of the electorate identifying as sportsmen.”

Tourism is the second largest industry in Wyoming after energy.

The “Conservation of the West” survey been conducted for the last six years as part of the State of the Rockies Project. Salazar says because it’s bipartisan, the poll has a strong effect on the decisions of lawmakers.