Western wildfires, drought, coronavirus boost public fears about the state of public lands, new polls shows
The survey of people in Colorado and 7 western states reveals spiking concerns about climate change, strong support for action, and how communities of color take public lands issues personally
Public alarm over the growing threats of climate change to Western lands and waters has doubled in the past decade, and Coloradans are even more worried than their neighbors about the ongoing drought’s brutal draining of rivers and lakes, according to new results from a long-term, eight-state poll run by Colorado College.
People of color in the West, meanwhile, often express even higher levels of concern about dangers to public lands than their white counterparts, and see the decline as more of a direct attack on their neighborhoods, jobs and economic security, poll analysts said.
“There’s a growing sense in the Rocky Mountain West that this is an issue that affects people directly, reflected in wildfires and drought,” said pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy, who co-conducted the poll of nearly 4,000 westerners for Colorado College’s State of the Rockies program.
The poll has been taken annually in five western states since 2011, and in others since then, covering Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Pollsters intentionally sampled hundreds more Black, Latino and indigenous people than in previous years in order to go deeper on questions and get a more representative sense of equity concerns, organizers said. Those responses were then proportionally weighted when added into aggregate responses. With the broad sample, the overall margin of error for the poll is thought to be just over 2%, with slightly higher margins for individual states.
People of color responded with a heightened sense of personal passion about protecting the environment, said Maite Arce, president and chief executive of the Hispanic Access Foundation, which helped design the poll of registered voters and analyzed results.
“Because we are talking about much more than protecting land and water,” Arce said. “It has to do with health, economy, work, heritage and social justice. Communities of color often are disproportionately affected.”
To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.
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