Coloradans love their public lands, poll says, but some think national monuments harm the local economy
Still, more Westerners are recognizing the economic benefit of recreation on public lands, State of the Rockies survey says
For eight straight years, the “Conservation in the West” poll of residents in eight Western states has shown growing support for public lands and protecting those wild places — so much so, that across those states brimming with public land, three-quarters of them described themselves as conservationists this year, up from a little more than 60 percent in 2016.
That’s a significant swing because people tend not to change how they think of themselves, said Public Opinion Strategies pollster Lori Weigel, who this month helped interview 3,200 residents in the states for the annual survey by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project.
“I think we are seeing a boost in intensity from what we have seen in the past,” Weigel said.
That vigor seems to be stemming from President Donald Trump. The poll shows disapproval for Trump’s call to carve almost 2 million acres from national monuments in Utah, with 70 percent of Colorado residents saying the shrinking of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments was a bad call. Coloradans have a strong affinity for national monuments, with 86 percent of those polled saying the protected federal lands help nearby economies.
Still, while more than 90 percent of Colorado respondents said the state’s national monuments were treasures worthy of conservation, about a quarter of them said the monuments injure the local economy and tie up land that could be used for other purposes.