Public opinion research

Westerners oppose the seizure, sell-off, or “transfer” of their public lands. These are America’s lands, and we believe we deserve a say in their future.

A 2016 poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project asked voters about efforts to turn national public lands owned by all Americans over to state or private control. In total, 58 percent of respondents oppose giving state governments control over national public lands, a majority which is consistent across all Western states.

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The State of the Rockies Project director commented on the results, saying:

“Charges of government overreach from the ideological fringes are making headlines, but in reality most Westerners in this poll favor greater protection and sensible use of the open lands and national treasures that define the region.”—Eric Perramond, Faculty Director of the State of the Rockies Project

Another poll, conducted by bipartisan pollsters in 2014, similarly found that Western voters clearly and strongly oppose efforts to seize America’s public lands, believing it would be unfair to taxpayers, lead to higher taxes, reduce access for recreation and result in lands being sold off to private interests.

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Additionally, voters in every Western state believe that national public lands should belong to all Americans, not just residents of their own state.

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This is because citizens of the West feel a strong connection with their public lands— 93 percent of Western voters have visited national parks, national forests, or other public lands within the last year.

Here’s what the polling experts who conducted this survey had to say about the results:

“The overwhelming majority of Westerners view the national forests and other public lands they use as American places that are a shared inheritance and a shared responsibility. Rather than supporting land transfer proposals, voters say their top priorities are to ensure public lands are protected for future generations and that the rangers and land managers have the resources they need to do their jobs.” — Dave Metz, president of FM3 Research

Previous research from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, released in 2014, shows that 74 percent of Western voters oppose selling off public lands, while only 19 percent support the idea.

The opposition remains strong even when political parties are broken out:

  • 64 percent of Republicans do not support the idea, while 25 percent do.
  • 74 percent of Independents oppose selling off public lands, while 20 percent support it.
  • 85 percent of Democrats are against the notion, while 10 percent are for it.

Additionally, 72 percent of voters in six Western states say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports selling public lands to reduce the deficit.