Poll: Most westerners support federal land policy


There is broad public support for federal ownership of public lands, a new poll released Monday found, in spite of the armed protests grabbing headlines at a wildlife refuge in Oregon. 

According to a survey from Colorado College, up to 60 percent of Western voters oppose proposals to sell federal land to private sources or transfer it to states. 

That has been a key demand for the group of gunmen who took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this month. The group, led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are protesting what they consider unlawful ownership of land by the federal government. 

Politicians, including many Republican presidential candidates, have condemned the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover and have called on the protesters to stand down. 

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters Monday that the Colorado College poll proves the group is “far out of touch with most folks living in the West.”

“In light of the recent events in Oregon, the 'Conservation in the West' poll gives us some much needed prospective about how Americans think about their lands, waters and way of life,” he said.

The poll also found strong support for a major federal conservation program and for the power of the president to designate national monuments. Renewable energy proposals and reducing methane leaks from oil and gas drilling on federal land won big support as well.

Respondents were more split on other energy policies, however, including the prospect of reducing the number of new coal mines on public land and on allowing crude oil exports, a policy approved by Congress in December. 

“Western voters draw some distinctions depending on the specific policy being asked about,” Lori Weigel, a partner at pollster Public Opinion Strategies, said. But, “generally, ‘clean’ is something that really resonates."