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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns report growing anxiety toward environmental issues, with 56% saying lawmakers should take action on climate change, according to a new poll of Intermountain West residents.
That’s a 16 point rise since 2011.
Colorado College’s annual State of the Rockies poll was published in late February, giving an in-depth look at public opinion in the Mountain West surrounding issues like land conservation, climate change and energy.
Between Jan. 11-19, pollsters surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states — Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming — to combine for a 3,200 person sample.
In addition to climate change, Utah was also more concerned with air pollution than any other state surveyed, with 95% telling pollsters smog was a serious problem.
Perhaps the most important finding — particularly for elected officials — was that 80% of Utahns said issues involving water, air pollution and public lands are key when throwing support behind politicians.
“The implications are that in a representative democracy and a republic, people can rise up and say, ‘You’re not representing my needs,’” said Thom Carter, executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership.
“We’ve got a broad coalition of Republican legislators who are working hard on air quality, so I’m not concerned. I think Utahns have good representation,” Carter said last week after lawmakers unveiled a statewide initiative to expand charging stations for electric vehicles.
Carter also touted Gov. Gary Herbert’s push to bring Tier 3 gasoline to Utah, which substantially reduces tailpipe emissions. Utahns can now fill their cars up with the cleaner burning fuel at most Speedway, Chevron, Exxon, Texaco and Shell locations throughout the state.
“We are proud to do our part to provide the energy resources required to sustain our growing economy, and we are proud that our state is home to a number of groundbreaking clean energy projects,” Hebert said in a statement.
Public lands have also been a hot topic in the Beehive State, with poll results indicating strong support for land conservation: 64% of Utahns consider themselves conservationists and 75% think that public lands where wildlife migrate each year should be protected from oil and gas exploration.
These sentiments were on full display when the Bureau of Land Management listed two parcels near the popular Slickrock mountain bike trail in Moab for its June oil and gas lease auction.
The move drew condemnation from countless Utahns, dozens of area businesses and Herbert himself, who asked the BLM to withdraw the parcels. The BLM ultimately did.
Herbert said “appreciates the unique beauty of the Slickrock area and wants to ensure that nothing is done that would be detrimental to the visitor experience or local water quality.”