Utah is one of the most wildfire-prone states in the U.S., experiencing between 800 and 1,000 ground fires, surface fires and canopy fires each year | Photo by rck/Adobe Stock via Public News Service, St. George News
ST. GEORGE —Voters in Utah and across the West are increasingly anxious about the effects of climate change on the beauty and ecology of their Rocky Mountains.
The 12th annual Conservation in the West Poll by Colorado College found voters in the eight Western states along the Continental Divide are disturbed by the changes a warming climate is having on the health of the outdoors.
Lori Weigel, principal at New Bridge Strategy which conducted the poll, said the 3,400 people surveyed expressed their views on a variety of environmental issues.
“Water topped the list,” Weigel said. “Drought and reduced snowpack elicited the strongest concern levels, with 86%. Throughout the Mountain West, more frequent and severe wildfires, air quality, extreme heat and even extreme weather events.”
In Utah, about 7 in 10 voters list air pollution and smog as a “serious or very serious” problem, while about eight in 10 say drought and water shortages are a major concern. And 60% of Utahns say they back President Joe Biden’s move to restore protections for the Bears Ears National Monument.
Dave Metz, principal and president at the polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, said those who aspire to public office should heed the poll’s findings. Utahns and others say, in large numbers, a candidate’s position on the environment will figure heavily in how they might vote.
“Almost nine out of 10 voters region-wide say that it’ll be one of the issues that they consider,” Metz said. “More than two in five tell us it will be very important, a primary factor.”
Pollsters made an extra effort this year to include Native Americans and people of color, over-sampling several groups to gauge their concerns.
Shanna Edberg, director of conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation, said marginalized communities are often the most affected by climate.
“Latinos have this clear vision of the way forward in protecting the environment, because it is Latino health, homes and jobs that are largely at stake,” Edberg said. “When Latino children are twice as likely as white children to die of asthma, reducing air pollution is a matter of life and death for our communities.”
Written by MARK RICHARDSON, producer for Utah News Connection.
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