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Poll: Wyomingites Top Users of Public Lands

PHOTO: Access and recreation on public lands are top benefits of living in Wyoming, even higher on the priority list than economic opportunities, quality of education and health care. Those findings are in a new poll.  Photo of the Bridger-Teton National Forest courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.
PHOTO: Access and recreation on public lands are top benefits of living in Wyoming, even higher on the priority list than economic opportunities, quality of education and health care. Those findings are in a new poll. Photo of the Bridger-Teton National Forest courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.
February 20, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Access and recreation on public lands are top benefits of living in Wyoming, even higher on the priority list than economic opportunities, quality of education and health care, according to a recent poll.

The latest Conservation in the West Poll also found that 53 percent want federal public lands to stay under federal management. Legislators have been exploring options to try to transfer control to the state.

Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said that idea pops up every few years.

"It keeps coming up 'cause there's a lot of money to be made from the privatization of our public lands," he said, "whether that's by industry or private individuals who want their own special hunting place."

The poll found that 94 percent said protecting public land access and keeping that land open for future generations were a priority for public-lands management. Seventeen percent said they supported selling off public lands to reduce the deficit.

The survey included a mix of political party affiliations, and Tawney said party lines generally aren't a factor when it comes to what people value about public lands.

"What separates the United States from all other countries in the world is our public lands," he said. "If we want it to be the European model, where only the rich and elite can do it, that's the way we would go if we sell or transfer our public lands."

The survey also found that Wyomingites are the most active users of federal public lands among the Rocky Mountain states - with 96 percent of respondents reporting that they visited public lands at least once in the past year.

The poll results are online at coloradocollege.edu.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY