Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

The Economy and Conservation Nexus From People Who Know

A survey released last week validates a common refrain here at the Dispatch; healthy habitat creates recreational opportunity which drives economic activity.

The 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that western voters who identify as sportsmen view America’s public lands as critical to their state’s economy and quality of life, and support upholding protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that 92 percent of sportsmen  – the majority of whom identify as politically conservative or moderate  — believe that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an “essential part” of the economies of these states.

There were press releases for each state highlighting key points from the survey in that particular state. What were especially interesting to me were the quotes. These people articulated the economic importance far better than I can.

See if you don’t agree.

In Arizona:

“It doesn’t matter which part of the political spectrum you are on, one thing we all agree on is that Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona if we didn’t have our public lands and waterways. And certainly my business  — and most businesses in Flagstaff  — depend on those special places like the Grand Canyon being protected,” said Alexandra Thevenin, General Manager of Flagstaff-based Arizona Raft Adventures & Grand Canyon Discovery. Her business employs 110 people during the peak season.

“Spending by Arizona hunters and anglers directly supports 21,000 jobs and generates $124-million in state and local taxes. This especially benefits rural communities like those surrounding the Grand Canyon.  Why wouldn’t we take steps to protect our parks, national forests, and wildlife habitat?” asked Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation and long-time resident of northern Arizona.

“Arizonans understand that their quality of life and their state’s competitive economic advantage is tied to a healthy environment,” noted John Shepard, Senior Adviser to the Sonoran Institute. “Moreover, they see the economic opportunities tied to transitioning to a clean-energy economy. State and federal leaders should take stock in the poll’s consistent findings in this regard to advocate for strong conservation, environmental and renewable energy policies.”

In Colorado:

“We know that visitors come to Durango because of all of the outdoor opportunities they can experience in our backyard. For our business, protecting land and the Colorado River is part of our business model,” said Kirk Komich, owner of the Leeland House and Rochester Hotel in Durango.

“Coloradans love this state because of the outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching,” said Suzanne O’Neill, director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Protecting our land, clean air, and streams requires balancing energy development on public lands with  safeguards  for  important wildlife habitat and open space for all of us to access and enjoy.”

“Sportsmen put their money where their mouth is when it comes to funding conservation,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We were pleased to see that overwhelming majorities of Colorado voters recognize the importance of funding protection of our land, water and wildlife even in the face of state budget problems. In particular, Coloradans remain deeply committed to using lottery funds to support our state’s natural areas.”

In Montana:

“From gear manufacturers to outfitters and guides in the field, there are hundreds of businesses in Montana that depend on clean air and clean waters in our majestic wild places. Montanans understand that a healthy environment is not only fundamental to our quality of life, it is the bedrock of businesses like Simms,” said KC Walsh, President of Simms Fishing Products, based in Bozeman.

Ben Lamb with the Montana Wildlife Federation was not surprised by the poll. “These results confirm what Montana’s hunters and anglers have known for years: political party doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting our outdoor heritage and our way of life. What matters is that everyone works together to ensure that future generations can enjoy the resources we have today.”

In New Mexico:

“Healthy public lands make it possible for thousands of New Mexican families to hunt and fish, and to pass on their love of the outdoors to their kids. In turn, that strong hunting and fishing tradition creates jobs and opportunity for small businesses,” said Joel Gay, a spokesman for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Everyone in New Mexico benefits from protected public lands.”

“Both Republican and Democratic Presidents have designated national monuments on public lands in New Mexico. Thanks to their leadership, places like White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Bandelier and Chaco Canyon have remained among the most beloved treasures of our state. It’s no surprise New Mexicans are supportive of new national monuments,” said Mary Lee Ortega, President of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ).

In Utah:

“Clean air and water, as well as protected lands, have significant economic impacts for Utah, in terms of tourism and our quality of life,” said Jay Banta, Utah Board Member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “But the value these lands provide in the way of wildlife habitat and solitude, for hunters and anglers, goes far beyond what an economist or pollster can quantify.”

“Voters and public officials across Utah support renewable energy and energy efficiency for numerous reasons and want to see barriers to their adoption eliminated,” said Sarah Wright, Director of Utah Clean Energy. “These poll results confirm what we hear from residents, businesses and local governments every day: public and private sectors and elected officials can work together to create a robust economy and healthy communities powered by clean energy.”

In Wyoming:

“I think we’ve understood this here in Wyoming for a long time,” said Ken Cramer, owner of Cross Country Connections, an outdoor store in Laramie. “It doesn’t matter what your political party is. People live here because we care about the outdoors. People want to hunt, fish, have the outdoor experience – otherwise we’d leave.”

“Tourism and outdoor recreation is the second-biggest industry in the state. We have three out of the top 10 destinations in the U.S. for snowmobiling. Skiing, camping, rock climbing, hunting – it’s all huge here. We’ve got to have places to recreate and we’ve got to take care of them. Clean air, clean water and snow are vital to our activities and, of course, for our lives.”

“We are very humbled by the results of the poll. It is a direct reflection of the partnerships we have been able to forge with more than 70 organizations in every county of Wyoming. Those of us on the board are continually amazed at the conservation work that happens in Wyoming, and are thankful for the support the citizens of Wyoming have shown,” said Delaine Roberts, Chairman of the Board of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.

From Sportsmen:

“Investments in conservation of our public lands and water are not only critical to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities, but also a critical component of the $192 billions sportsmen contribute to our national economy annually,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen and women continue to value a stubborn stewardship of our natural places and the recreational opportunities those places provide.”

“Conservation efforts amount to only about 1 percent of federal spending but in return sustain fish and wildlife and their habitats, enable out outdoor traditions and safeguard the nearly 6million jobs supported by outdoor recreation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  “The general public, including sportsmen, supports our continued investment in conservation, and we will  continue to work with our leaders in Washington, D.C., to uphold these critical policies that facilitate the responsible use and enjoyment of our public lands.”

You can find the full survey and individual state surveys on the Colorado College website.


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