RBC I According to a public opinion poll released by the Western Values Project and conducted by Public Policy Polling, one of the most accurate polling companies in America, the majority of Western voters look to our leaders in Washington to safeguard the American West’s diverse economy on our public lands.
During a press conference call featuring leading voices in our public dialogue on energy development and public lands in the American West, participants discussed the results from the 1,752 voter poll conducted in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, and they called on Congress and the Obama Administration to ensure business- and community-friendly policies in Western energy development.
The poll on Western public lands and energy development policies comes ahead of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Energy Bill, which is slated to look at the whole of American energy policy as well as a final decision on a number of administrative rules initiated by the Obama administration.
The conference call included Jim Williams, Public Policy Polling; Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project; Ti Hays, council for the Western Energy Project; Jason Keith, managing director for Public Land Solutions; and Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
The American West is a foundational part of America’s energy security and economic prosperity, and Sen. Murkowski, along with other leaders in Washington are considering sweeping energy legislation that could potentially impact the diverse public land-supported economy, and Westerners are hoping for a seat at the table. In addition, the Obama Administration faces a strong but waning opportunity to advance the issues that are most important to the Westerners who are fueling America’s energy independence.
The poll found that voters in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico believe officials in Washington should consider agriculture, tourism and energy production activities equally, so that one does not come at the expense of any of the others. Colorado voters support equality over more heavily favoring one activity 57/33, Montana voters 62/28, and New Mexico voters 52/38.
When asked if Congress should make sure decisions about public lands are transparent and ensure that all interested stakeholders have the opportunity to help make decisions about energy development on public lands, the bipartisan poll found that 88 percent of Montana voters agree, as well as 87 percent of Colorado voters and 86 percent of New Mexicans. 62 percent of Montanans, 68 percent of Coloradans and 71 percent of respondents from New Mexico “strongly agree.”
“It’s critical that Congress also considers Westerners’ calls for a balanced economy on our Western public lands,” said VeneKlasen. “I’ve lived in New Mexico all my life, and as an avid outdoorsman and sportsman, I’ve witness firsthand the value that our intact and accessible public lands bring to our state’s economy, supporting countless jobs in businesses related to outdoor recreation and tourism. Congress and the Administration must act to secure our outdoor economy.”
The poll found that the most respondents want companies that extract energy from our federal public lands to pay royalties that are the same as the rates they pay on privately—and state-owned lands: 82 percent of Coloradans, 81 percent of New Mexicans, and 86 percent of Montanans supported consistent royalties.
“Congress’ energy legislation is the opportunity to create an energy economy that works for everyone,” said Saeger, a Montana outdoorsman and sportsman.
‘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,” said Saeger, a Montana outdoorsman and sportsman.
The poll also found that Westerners hope Congress takes into account the safety and health of Western communities as it considers legislation.
“Access and continued safety are also key components of any legislation that addresses energy development and public land,” said Keith, a longtime resident of Moab, Utah. “More than three-quarters of those surveyed felt that Congress should take steps to make sure energy development is safe for the folks it affects.”
Specifically, 89 percent of Coloradans, 91 percent of Montanans and 91 percent of New Mexicans believe Congress should take such steps.
These leaders have called on Sen. Murkowski and her colleagues in Washington—as well as Obama Administration officials—to ensure America’s energy future sustains business-friendly policies in energy development, and is accountable to the values of the majority of Westerners.