In a time when armed protesters are still in a standoff with federal and local law enforcement at a wildlife refuge in Oregon, much attention has been brought to the issue of national public lands, and to who owns them. The annual Conservation in the West poll released today by Colorado College answers those questions loud and clear, showing that a vast majority of Westerners support keeping national public lands in public hands, and that the government should make sure taxpayers get an honest return from private economic activity on public lands.
Altogether, 58% of those surveyed said that they would reject the sale of any significant holdings of public lands, as well as state transfers—a key priority for the armed militants in Oregon and the Federal Land Action Group. An overwhelming 72% of likely western voters agreed that the presence of national public lands in a community or state helps the economy. And another 75% of westerners believe that renewing America’s premier parks program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, should be a strong priority.
Notably, the poll found that 80% of those surveyed believe that oil and gas operators on public lands should reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air by using updated technology to prevent leaks. This is a particularly timely issue given that the Department of the Interior is slated to release limits on the wasteful practice of venting and flaring sometime this month.
These results are consistent with what westerners know—wasting natural gas not only wastes a valuable resource, but also hurts taxpayers by depriving them of needed royalties from extraction on their public lands. The upcoming in proposed rule from Interior will ensure that less gas is wasted, and that taxpayers get the return, through royalty payments valued by communities and states, that they deserve.
With this poll release, westerners have confirmed the importance of our American public lands to our economies and communities—now, it’s time for Congress to pay attention.