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Poll: Overwhelming Support Across Political Spectrum for Public Lands

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More than three-quarters of Montanans support national monuments such as the Upper Missouri River Breaks. (Bob Wick/BLM)
More than three-quarters of Montanans support national monuments such as the Upper Missouri River Breaks. (Bob Wick/BLM)
May 8, 2018

MISSOULA, Mont. – A new poll shows overwhelming bipartisan support for public lands in Montana. The University of Montana's Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative has released the results of its third biannual survey and found Montanans are backing public lands in even greater numbers than they did in 2014 and 2016.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents say conservation and public lands are important when they cast their vote, and 48 percent say it's very important.

Rick Graetz, a professor at the University of Montana and head of the Crown of the Continent initiative, says people move to the state to experience its lands.

"People are getting a better understanding now of the value of these public lands and what they mean to the economy and the life quality," he says. "It draws businesses to Montana just because of the life quality that they offer."

Nine out of ten Montanans say they've visited a national public land in the past year and nearly half say they've been 10 or more times. For the survey, 500 registered Montana voters were interviewed. It was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates.

Support extends beyond national parks. More than three-quarters of Montanans also approve of the president's power to designate national monuments, as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs a portion of federal offshore drilling fees to conserve natural areas, wildlife and clean water.

There are vocal opponents to public lands, with some suggesting they be transferred over to states. But, Republican pollster Lori Weigel with Public Opinion Strategies says it's important to put these loud voices in perspective.

"The vast majority really are feeling somewhat differently, and when given and explained some of the issues, they're reacting again and again very consistently throughout much of this data and even stronger towards conservation of these existing public lands from what we've seen in the past," she explains.

The survey also found three-quarters of Montanans support a new national monument in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The Trump administration has proposed this designation because of Blackfeet Tribe sacred sites in the area.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT