Poll: Western Slope voters want increased protections for wilderness and recreation areas
CORE Act, which would preserve approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, set for a House floor vote next week
New Bridge Strategy recently completed a new public opinion survey throughout western Colorado to determine voters’ views on a range of conservation issues, particularly increasing wilderness designations on some lands in the West.
The poll found strong support for the main proposals included in the Colorado Outdoor and Recreation Economy Act, which includes 73,000 new acres of wilderness. Support is particularly strong in the counties directly affected by the legislation. Voters also showed support for increasing wilderness designations in principle. In addition, voters in western Colorado back proposals to increase wilderness in desert and canyon areas in their region and want to keep Wilderness Study Areas intact, rather than removing that designation on some public lands.
“The poll release comes at a pivotal moment for Colorado,” said Mark Pearson, Executive Director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, in a news release. “Next week members of Congress will have the opportunity to vote on the CORE Act and send it along to the Senate for final action. Colorado needs this legislation to protect some of our most treasured landscapes and this poll shows that voters stand behind the idea that we can and should be doing more.”
Specifically, the survey found that:
- More than three in five Western Slope voters support dedicating additional, existing public lands as wilderness areas here in Colorado.
- Specifically, two-thirds express support for the main elements of the CORE Act, designating new wilderness areas in the San Juan Mountains, along the Continental Divide, and protecting the Thompson Divide region for wildlife and ranching.
- There is equally significant support for adding wilderness protections to public lands in desert and canyons regions of the state.
- Voters in this region also reject calls to eliminate protections for Wilderness Study Areas by an overwhelming margin.
“We haven’t surveyed public opinion on the Western Slope about wilderness and land protections generally in well over a decade,” said Pearson. “With the CORE Act pending in Congress, and other legislative options under consideration, it’s invaluable to ask voters their opinions about preserving wilderness and maintaining current land protections like Wilderness Study Areas.”
The strong support in the poll may be grounded in the fact that voters view public lands as beneficial for the economy. They also anticipate outdoor recreation becoming increasingly important in the region. This is not surprising given that most voters in this region say that they engage in outdoor recreation activities and/or sportsmen activities.
The CORE Act has broad local support from county commissioners, outdoor businesses, conservationists, and ranchers, including the counties of Eagle, Summit, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Pitkin and the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Ridgway, Crested Butte, Ophir, Telluride and Basalt. The CORE Act includes a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape to honor Colorado’s military history at Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained before WWII.