The Associated Press
Most people living in the West believe not enough national forest land has been designated as wilderness, according to a poll commissioned by three conservation organizations.
The poll, conducted by the Mellman Group Inc. and released Tuesday, found 57 persent of those surveyed in the West and 63 percent of those questioned nationwide believe not enough of the nation’s forests were protected from commercial development.
Seven percent of those in the West and 6 percent nationwide said too much land already is designated as wilderness. The rest believed the right amount of forest land was protected.
Those surveyed were told that currently, 18 percent of the land in national forests is permanently protected from logging and other development, and were asked whether they believed that was too much, not enough or the right amount.
The U.S. Forest Service in February imposed an 18 month moratorium on new road-building in some roadless areas, although the policy does not apply to 25 national forests in eight states. The Clinton administration will decide what direction to take on a new policy for road construction and protecting roadless areas.
The poll, which questioned 800 likely voters between June 9-14, found support for protecting roadless areas n national forests cut across gender, political party and regional lines. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
It was commissioned by The Wilderness Society, the National Audubon Society and the Heritage Forests Campaign.
“Seventy-five years ago, New Mexico became the focal point of a growing understanding of how important it is to protect wild places with the designation of our nation’s first wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness,” said David Henderson, executive director of National Audubon Society-New Mexico. “This poll serves to strengthen the belief that the public continues to appreciate the protection of our national forests.”
The Heritage Forests Campaign, a coalition of conservationists, scientists, educators, clergy and members of the public, said it delivered more than 250,000 postcards and email messages from the public to the Clinton administration last month urging protection for 60 million acres of roadless areas in national forests.
The poll found:
- 62 percent of Americans surveyed favored a proposal to protect all roadless areas of at least 1,000 acres in national forests.
- 75 percent supported a plan that would not exempt any national forests from protecting roadless areas.
- More than 70 percent favored banning oil drilling, logging, and mining in such roadless areas.
- Women gave the most support for protecting roadless areas, with 68 percent overall supporting the proposal, 64 percent of those identified as Republican women supporting the proposal and 75 percent of Democratic women supporting it.
- 68 percent of those questioned favored protecting more national forest land than is currently protected.