Latinos Show Strong Support for Public Lands and Water Protections, Oppose “Energy Dominance” Agenda in 9th Annual Conservation in the West Poll

Poll finds overwhelming support for LWCF, concerns around water issues and the increasingly visible impact of climate change, optimism for outdoor recreation economies

COLORADO SPRINGS—The ninth annual Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today shows Latino voters in the Mountain West continue to support efforts to keep public lands protected and accessible, putting them at odds with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.

The poll surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) on policies impacting the use and protection of public lands. The role of public lands and the outdoor way of life continued to be of deep importance to Western voters. 66 percent view themselves as “outdoor recreation enthusiasts” and 62 percent label themselves as “conservationists.” An overwhelming majority—82 percent—believe the outdoor economy is important to the future of their state. 

“Latinos are changing the face of conservation leading it to be more reflective of the communities we see in the western states. As they become leaders in this movement, they are creating solutions that represent the needs of their communities,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the growing electoral power that this community is just beginning to discover, you have a political force that has the potential to shift the balance on conservation issues.” 

When asked about the Trump administration’s agenda for public lands, majorities viewed key actions over the past two years with strong disapproval.

Recent Trump administration action on public lands Good Change Bad Change 
Removing national monument protections from lands in the West which contain archaeological and Native American sites, but also have oil, gas and mineral deposits 14% 67%
Reducing the amount of time that the public can comment on proposed changes affecting public lands, such as leasing for oil and gas or mining 20% 49%
Removing Clean Water Act protections from smaller streams and seasonal wetlands 21% 60%

“Over the history of the Conservation in the West Poll, we have consistently seen bipartisan support for protecting public lands and outdoor spaces,” said Corina McKendry, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado College. “That a leadership agenda out of step with those values is met with disapproval in the West is no surprise, although the rejection of the current administration’s priorities is particularly intense here.” 

Looking forward, Latino voters in the Mountain West want the newly elected Congress to challenge the Trump administration's priorities on national public lands. Just 22 percent want Congress to ensure the production of more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining. That is compared to 68 percent who prefer Congress ensures the protection of clean water, air quality, and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. 

Impacts of uncontrollable wildfires and water issues topped the list of voter concerns this year. Those concerns are associated with the impacts of climate change, which 57 percent of voters view as a very serious or extremely serious problem in their state—a steady increase over the duration of the history of the poll. 67 percent of voters believe wildfires are more of a problem than ten years ago, with changes in climate and drought being the top reasons given for the shift. Voters also have significant concerns about water levels in the West; 71 percent view water supplies as becoming less predictable every year. 

The reauthorization and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded through royalties collected from offshore oil and gas drilling, was supported by 85 percent of the Latino respondents. Since 1954 LWCF has been used to support more than 42,000 parks and projects at the federal, state and local levels. Congress allowed LWCF to expire by failing to reauthorize the fund prior to it expiring at the end of September. It has received bipartisan support and is expected to resurface early this year.

State conservation effort Support
Protecting and restoring the health of rivers, lakes and streams 83%
Conserving sensitive areas which the state has identified as critical wildlife habitat 78%
Conserving natural areas, such as native prairies or forests 73%
Ensuring opportunities for outdoor recreation like hiking, fishing or camping 60%
Conserving land corridors which wildlife like deer and elk use for migration 80%
Providing incentives for landowners to conserve lands as natural areas rather than develop them 63%
Managing forests to help prevent catastrophic wildfires 87%

“The poll underscores that people living in the West are overwhelmingly outdoor recreationists. Whether they enjoy the outdoors through hiking, biking, fishing, or camping with family and friends, our outdoor recreation lifestyle translates to healthy communities and healthy economies across the West,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “The poll also shows that most of us want our elected officials to support policies that protect and maintain access to our public lands and waters. We hope they now take an opportunity to build bipartisan support on these issues.”

This is the ninth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2019 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,204-person sample. The survey was conducted between January 2-9, 2019 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

Infographics and presentation of the Latino voter findings are available at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/b8lmlqd2qw90t7f/AAAyYB-DfEK6qMrPKk_5Ztrva?dl=0

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