Polls show support for top conservation priorities

Two polls released Tuesday show big public support for major priorities for conservationists. 

The first poll, from the Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice, shows 90 percent approval of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The poll, an online survey of 600 registered voters in June, also showed support among voters for congressional candidates who back the law, and nearly three-fourths of voters said they would prefer government regulators make decisions about species’ endangered statuses rather than Congress. 

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The poll comes as the House takes up a spending bill that would block several ESA provisions, including one that would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the greater sage grouse under the law. The grouse’s endangered status is hotly-contested among western state governments, conservationists and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

“Congress is on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue,” Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement. 

“The vast majority of Americans strongly believe in upholding the Endangered Species Act and that’s what they want their elected officials to do. But that’s not what is happening.”

In a separate survey, the Western Values Project found 57 percent of voters in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico support public land policies that balance agriculture, tourism and energy production activities rather than prioritizing one over the other. 

The poll, a survey of more than 1,700 voters from Public Policy Polling, found most voters support making energy companies operating on federal lands pay the same tax rate as those on private property. The numbers come as lawmakers in both the House and Senate work on writing energy policy overhaul bills. 

“Congress’s energy legislation is the opportunity to create an energy economy that works for everyone,” Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger said.

“To do this, we must ensure that energy development is accountable to taxpayers — our public lands are resources to be managed for the benefit of all Americans, and all Americans deserve their fair share of any resource extraction profits.”