There's strong support in Utah and 10 other western states for developing renewable energy on public lands - and ensuring at least some of the rents or royalties from developers are used locally for conservation and recreation purposes. That's according to a new bipartisan poll commissioned by the Wilderness Society.
In Western states, including Utah, party lines practically disappear in a new poll about balancing renewable energy development with protection for public lands. Nearly 3 out of 4 voters 11 states said they favor producing wind and solar power on federal lands. Pollster Christine Matthews says respondents' political views didn't seem to factor into their answers:
"In fact, it reflects the kind of bipartisan, nonpartisan perspective that voters have on this particular issue. You see a little bit stronger support among Democrats -- 84% support this concept -- but 2/3 of both Independents and Republicans also support it."
72% of those polled said if land is going to be rented to wind or solar developers, at least some of the proceeds should stay in local communities to improve the remaining public lands in the area.
If money was set aside for conservation, the pollsters also asked how it should be used - for parks and refuges, restoring fish and wildlife habitat or creating new hunting and fishing areas. All got high percentages. For Ken Theis, a backcountry angler from Utah, that's good news:
"I thought that that showed there was a lot of interest and actually more awareness of the need to do that than I expected -- using some of the funds for habitat restoration, and access for hunting areas - but I was pleasantly surprised to see that kind of support."
There are 3 bills right now in Congress to divert money now going to the federal money to counties and states to be used for boosting conservation and recreation.