Western Voters Say National Public Lands Should Belong to all Americans, Not Just Those of a Particular State

Sep 25, 2014

By Center for Western Priorities

A new poll released this morning reveals important new information about how citizens of the American West are thinking about legislative efforts to turn our national public lands over to the states. This is the first poll to test Westerners’ opinions on attempts to seize or sell-off public lands.

According to the survey of voters in eight Western states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming), voters feel very strongly that national public lands belong to all Americans, not just those of a particular state. Consider these two questions:

“Do you think of these public lands more as American places that belong to everyone in our country, or state places that belong more to the people of [your state]?”

Poll 1

“And SHOULD these public lands belong to everyone in our country, or belong to the people of [your state]?”

Poll 2

Westerners have an aversion to continued state efforts to takeover national public lands because they have strong personal connections with these places. In fact, the survey determined that an astounding 93 percent of Western voters have visited national parks, national forests, or other national public lands at least once in the last year.

It’s also worth noting that state efforts to seize or sell public lands would have negative consequences for taxpayers, and will lead to an expensive and quixotic legal fight.

Voters aren’t the only ones expressing their displeasure with state efforts to seize public lands. In fact, a series of recent newspaper editorials from across the West make it clear that national public lands belong to all Americans, not just those of a particular state:

Billings Gazette, Montana: “Federal lands belong to the American people — to folks in Missouri and Iowa, New York and Texas just as they do to Montanans and Wyomingites. Congress cannot simply give away the birthright of its citizens.”

Montana Standard and Helena Independent-Record, Montana: “This land is ours. It is owned by the people of Montana, as well as every other citizen in the country.”

The Spectrum, Utah: “And sometimes, we need an outside voice to help us to remember that we should be preserving these lands, not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of all mankind.”