Colorado plant conservation

Volunteers with Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative works in the field on July 19, 2012, to help catalog and conserve 121 rare plants in Colorado, assisting government agencies, private organizations and academic institutions develop the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy and best management practices to reduce energy development impacts, address climate change and adopt focused strategies for the conservation of individual species. 

Coloradans are the second-most pessimistic in the West about the environment, while a younger generation is losing hope, a Colorado College poll suggested Thursday.

More than 2 out of 3 Coloradans said they were worried about the future of the environment, but the number jumped to 70% among those younger than 35.

Colorado was out-fretted only by Nevada for public pessimism by 1 percentage point, the poll indicated.

Over the last decade environmental problems in general have gotten worse, said 74% of the Coloradans surveyed, which tied Nevada for the highest percent of concerned inhabitants.

The Colorado Springs school's State of the Rockies Project released its 11th annual Conservation in the West Poll  measuring voter attitudes in eight states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The poll also suggested 74% of Coloradans thought wildfires have gotten worse over the last decade, and the most common reason they cited was climate change.

Since the project began in 2011, covering three presidential administrations and bust and boom economies, trend lines emerged, said pollster Lori Weigel, a principal with the right-leaning firm of New Bridge Strategy

She was joined by Dave Metz, of the left-leaning polling firm FM3 Research.

Concern about climate change across the Mountain West has gone up 27% over that time, with 54% who named it their top environmental concern. Loss of wildlife habitat and water pollution both resonated with 55%, pollsters found.

Concerns about oil and gas impacts on the environment grew only from 31% to 37%, and concerns over air pollution rose from 40% to 43% over the course of 11 annual polls.

Yet, 78% of those polled thought oil and gas operations on federal public lands should be curtailed or stopped.

A whopping 93% of those surveyed across the Mountain West, however, supported a requirement that oil and gas companies cover the cost of their environmental impacts and not taxpayers, the poll suggested.

Weigel and Metz said the findings were relatively consistent among both Democrats and Republicans across a range of conservation-related questions.

You can read the poll results by clicking here.

The poll was conducted Jan. 2 to Jan. 13, contacting a representative sample of 400 voters in each state using phone calls and online invitations. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2%.

The pollsters said they oversampled communities of color and lower-income communities to be a more balanced and equitable view of overall Western attitudes.

When it comes to meeting the goal of conserving 30% of the nation's land and water by 2030, a whopping 81% of Coloradans were in support; that's up from 74% in last year's poll.

"Western voters are fully behind this concept," Metz said in a phone call with reporters Thursday morning. "... It has not only has broad support but bipartisan support; backing from Democrats is nearly unanimous with 92% in favor."

Unaffiliated voters backed the 30-for-30 proposal with 80%, while those who identified as Republicans backed protecting land and water from development by more than 2 to 1.

The Biden administration adopted the national conservation goal last month.

Despite lean budgets in state and local governments, 91% of voters in the West thought their representatives should prioritize protecting their state’s land, water and wildlife.

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