(Undated Utah)- A Poll conducted in several western states including Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune says, shows Utahans views about public lands are similar to residents of other states. The new poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll, released Tuesday, is particularly relevant as Utah lawmakers continue to press the case for taking over management of more than 30 million acres of public land in the state. Residents of six western states surveyed view public lands as “American Places,” not “State Places,” according to pollsters, who are quoted as saying, “People have very evocative memories of growing up and visiting these places,” pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies, adds, “They feel one of the best things the federal government does is public lands.” Of those polled in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, 68 percent said the lands belong to all U.S. citizens, not just the residents of specific states. In Utah, the number of voters agreeing public lands belong to all Americans dropped to 60 percent of the 400 registered voters polled. A bi-partisan research team called 2,400 residents of the six western states in late 2014 and early 2015 for the college.
Pollsters found a disconnect between voters and their congressional representatives on environmental and public lands policy. Nearly half said they were not sure of their congressional representative’s positions on “protecting land, air and water.” And 27 percent believe their representative “places a lower priority than you do.” Voters are less concerned about commercial use of public lands. Nearly two-thirds of western respondents — 72 percent — said it was important to make sure oil, gas, minerals or coal are available for development and mining. But only 40 percent said it was very important.The vast majority of westerners — 96 percent — say preserving natural areas for future generations is important. Utahns’ support matched that number. 96 percent of the respondents said an important priority for public lands management is protecting public lands for future generations.