By Maritsa Georgiou - April 13, 2020 - Originally published on NBC Montana
MISSOULA, Mont. — A new survey from the University of Montana shows strong support on both sides of the aisle for public lands and outdoor business.
The 2020 Voter Survey on Public Lands was unique, as the 500 people surveyed were interviewed in late March amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“COVID-19 was front and center in the news when we surveyed, so I was surprised to see support for public lands and conservation issues remain steady and even grow in some cases,” said UM Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative director Rick Graetz. “I think it shows Montanans view our public lands and outdoors as a refuge, especially in times of national crisis, and they especially acknowledge the value of outdoor businesses when the economy is suffering.”
A bipartisan team of pollsters conducted the survey. They say the takeaway is that more voters than ever consider public lands to be a boost for our state economy. That belief grew by 7% since it was asked on the 2018 survey.
And the pollsters say Montana stands out from other states they survey on these issues.
“In Montana, unlike a lot of other places, these issues are personal. They're part of the fabric of people's everyday lives,” said pollster Dave Metz. “It's not an intellectual exercise about public policy. It's happening in their backyard.”
A press release says, “the survey also found cross-party support for a variety of policy debates and public land proposals that would require congressional approval.” These include:
- 75% of voters want to increase or maintain protections for the seven national forest Wilderness Study Areas in Montana.
- 77% of voters support a proposal to protect one such Wilderness Study Area in the Gallatin Range near Yellowstone National Park.
- 75% of voters support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act to expand protections on public lands adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, similar to past survey years.
- 79% of voters support stronger protections for the Badger-Two Medicine area near Glacier National Park and support designating it as a Cultural Heritage Area.
- 79% of voters support the proposed Montana Headwaters Legacy Act to expand the number of federally protected rivers in southwestern and central Montana.
You can see the results of the full survey here.
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