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Poll Measures Support for Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation

PHOTO: A new survey shows a majority of voters of all political stripes like the idea of preserving sagebrush landscapes where greater sage-grouse reside. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
PHOTO: A new survey shows a majority of voters of all political stripes like the idea of preserving sagebrush landscapes where greater sage-grouse reside. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
July 16, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. – Westerners have a soft spot for greater sage-grouse, according to a new poll released this week.

A majority of voters surveyed in counties home to sage-grouse support plans to conserve sagebrush habitat, even if it includes some restrictions on energy development.

Pollster Danny Franklin with the Benenson Strategy Group says the results hold true in every state where sage-grouse live, and across political lines. But he says it isn't just about the bird.

"What people are saying is there's something special about the Western landscape, and the lands in which the Greater sage-grouse makes its home that they want to preserve," says Franklin.

Three in four voters believe it is important to take action to keep sage-grouse habitat healthy. When the numbers are broken down by political party affiliation, 68 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats shared that view.

The polling was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by two firms – the Benenson Group, considered to be Democratic-leaning – and Public Opinion Strategies, considered to be Republican-leaning.

Even when actions to conserve sagebrush habitat mean some restrictions on energy development, the poll says voters are still on board, with 61 percent approving. Ken Rait, public lands director with The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the point of the survey was to understand what residents in sagebrush country think about BLM and Forest Service plans for habitat.

"We think it's important for the administration, that is on the verge of writing records of decisions around these plans, to know they have the support of the people who live in the places where the sage-grouse do," he says.

Additional survey questions about whether more needs to be done to safeguard sagebrush habitat found 60 percent either like the current proposal, or want stronger actions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide later this year whether to protect greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM