Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., believes the U.S. is nearing “the tipping from where there is no return” when it comes to dealing with climate change and protecting the environment.
And a recent poll conducted in eight Western states indicates many share that opinion. Udall believes the results of the Conservation in the West Poll released Thursday should be a call to action among members of Congress. Almost 75% of the 3,200 people who participated in the poll in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming believe Congress should develop comprehensive plans to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.
“Policymakers in Washington have our marching orders,” Udall said during a press call about the poll, sponsored by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project. “Public support for conservation and climate action is stronger than ever.”
Among the findings in the poll: 70% of New Mexico residents believe significant effects of climate change will occur within the next decade. A majority of participants in the poll considered pollution, climate change and water issues among their biggest concerns, although a person’s political views reflected the order. Among Democrats, 54% considered climate change the most important issue, followed by pollution at 37% and water at 30%. Pollution was the top issue among Republicans, at 33%, water at 27% and climate change at 16%. Independents equally listed pollution and climate change as their top issue, at 39%, followed by water.
The poll said 73% of voters favor a national goal to protect 30% of America’s land and ocean areas by 2030, with majority support across party lines for the conservation goal. Udall and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., support legislation that would work towards that goal.
“A movement is growing from the ground up, with Westerners of all political stripes clamoring for action to save our way of life, starting with a national conservation goal of protecting 30% of our natural land by 2030 to stave off a looming extinction crisis,” Udall said.
In response to a question from the Journal, the senator said plans to achieve that goal should be “state-, tribal- and community-specific.”
He indicated public land should be set aside from oil and gas drilling and mineral development, rather than allowing drilling up into the 30% point.
The poll said 67% of voters consider habitat conservation a priority for their elected officials over oil and gas drilling and mining. Over half of all voters – 52% – said that microplastics in rivers, streams and drinking water supplies are serious problems affecting public lands and public health.
Udall was critical of the Trump administration, saying “it has taken a hatchet to our nation’s proud conservation legacy.”
And the poll indicated voters were concerned about recent decisions to roll back Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act protections.
But Larry Behrens, Western states director for Power the Future, a conservative energy advocacy group, voiced concerns that the poll results painted a perception that the energy industry didn’t care about the environment.
“Any reasonable person knows we can have both responsible energy production and a clean environment,” he said. “However, if Sen. Udall and other politicians feel they have ‘marching orders’ from the eco-left, they’re free to give up their hypocrisy and pledge to personally go carbon-free.”