After a year of President Donald Trump in the White House, Wyoming voters remain supportive of the president but skeptical of many of his environmental policies.
That’s according to Colorado College’s annual Conservation in the West poll, released Thursday, which found residents of the Cowboy State increasingly concerned about loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, though nearly 60 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the environment.
The survey also found that 55 percent of voters want the Interior Department to keep the current federal plan for protecting sage grouse while just 38 percent want the plan to be changed. Three years ago, the policies were painstakingly negotiated and agreed upon by a coalition of Western governors and various interest groups. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has sought to reopen the plans to allow for more energy production in sage grouse habitat.
Results laid bare the tension over energy development in Wyoming, with 30 percent of voters saying that wind power best represents “the future of energy” in the state — more than any other resource — but ranking wind third when it came to which type of energy had the most potential to help Wyoming’s economy. Coal still ranked first on that question.
Far more residents are concerned about the state’s reliance on fossil fuels compared to last year, with 72 percent saying that it was a serious problem facing Wyoming compared to just 56 percent in 2017.
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Likewise, 66 percent consider the loss of fish and wildlife habitat to be a serious concern, up from 50 percent last year.
Cowboy State residents were also overwhelmingly supportive of national monuments, presidential designations that have come under fire by Trump and Zinke. Wyoming is home to two national monuments, Devils Tower and Fossil Butte. President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.
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Ninety-five percent of Wyomingites agreed that national monuments were “important places to be conserved for future generations” and 88 percent agreed that they help “the economy of nearby communities.” Just 22 percent thought that monuments tied up too much land that “could be put to other uses.”
The monuments have been in the news following Trump’s decision last fall to cut the most recently designated one, Bears Ear National Monument in Utah, by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante, also in Utah, by half.
Fifty-two percent of voters in Wyoming thought those cuts were a bad idea, while 35 supported the move.
Other policies promoted by the Trump administration that have lackluster support among Wyoming voters include:
- 50 percent oppose, and 40 percent support, a proposal to raise entrance fees at National Parks;
- 47 oppose, and 36 percent support, a plan to privatize some services at National Parks;
- 45 percent support, and 44 percent oppose, expanding oil and gas drilling on federal public land.
Aside from conservation issues, the survey addressed some broader political topics that point toward a general alienation of Wyomingites from the rest of the nation outside of the Western United States. Only 20 percent thought “people who live in big cities” shared their values and just 18 percent though elected officials in Washington, D.C. reflected their values. Fifty-nine percent of residents thought Wyoming politicians reflected their values.
The survey was conducted between December and January by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll had a margin of error plus or minus 4.9 percent in Wyoming.