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Conservation In The West Poll Reveals Passion For The Outdoors

By Raetta Holdman

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)- When it comes to the great outdoors, a majority of voters identify themselves as conservationists and most do not approve of how Pres. Donald Trump and his administration have handled issues related to land, water and wildlife.

That's the finding of the eighth annual Conservation in the West Poll from The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project.

Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road (credit: Rocky Mountain National Park)

In Colorado, 75 percent of those taking the poll considered themselves conservationists.

Those Colorado voters say outdoor recreation is important to the economic future of the state. Some 96 percent say it's at least somewhat important while 77 percent say it is very important.

Rocky Mountain National Park
(credit: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A total of 88 percent of Coloradans say they have visited national public lands, like a forest or monument, in the past year.

And that means the plan to raise the entrance fees at some of the largest national parks during the busiest seasons, including Rocky Mountain National Park, has a big impact.

Of those polled, 49 percent say they opposed that plan.

The trail to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. (credit: CBS4 Meteorologist Chris Spears)

"Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West," said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project.

"Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in the West."

Rocky Mountain National Park
Fall color from Rocky Mountain National Park in 2014. (credit: CBS4's Mark Neitro)

When it comes to priorities for the administration, 64 percent said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on public lands.

Twenty-three percent said they prefer increasing domestic production by increasing the amount of public lands for drilling and mining.

In Colorado, 68 percent said the

Snowstorm Nov. 16, 2015
Coyote in Rocky Mountain National Park (credit: Irmelin Shively)

Administration should make conservation the priority.

And the poll seems to prove what most believe about Colorado's public lands and outdoor lifestyle as a big advantage in attracting good jobs and innovative companies. Sixty percent said it's a big advantage, while 87 percent think it is a least advantageous.

Elk At Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2014 (credit: CBS)

The survey also confirmed planning for growth and development is a real concern.

With the drought, water remains a real worry; 75 percent of the respondents in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah view the Colorado River as "at risk."

Most say the way to address water shortages is to use the current supply more wisely rather than diverting water from less populated areas.

The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

Raetta Holdman is a veteran newscast producer. She's been with CBS4 for more than 25 years, coordinating events -- large and small -- from the control room. Contact her by clicking here.

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