GREAT FALLS — For two decades, Colorado College's "State of the Rockies" project has worked to help people better understand socioeconomic challenges in the Rocky Mountain West.
For the past 12 years, the Conservation in the West Poll has been a part of that effort. The 2022 poll was released Thursday, showing concerns by people living in the western United States about environmental issues weren’t going away.
"It's a tool for policy makers and the general public to gauge citizens' attitudes towards a number of conservation issues facing the west,” Colorado College State of the West Project Director Katrina Miller-Stevens said during a Zoom presentation held to unveil the 2022 poll results.
One issue in particular the 2022 poll found was important to many people in Montana is fires.
"Given the timing of the survey, it was somewhat after here in Colorado where we experienced some devastating wildfires. We actually went back and looked at some different questions that we had asked last year and this year. We saw, really, no difference in terms of level of Coloradans had been concerned about wildfires just as much as the year before. In this new question, you can see Coloradans and Montanans are really some of those most concerned,” New Bridge Strategy Representative Lori Weigel said.
In fact, 92 percent of the 416 Montanans surveyed said they were concerned, the most of any of the eight states. Sixty three percent of those Montanans said they were very concerned.
The poll also found people in the west don't have a positive view of the environment in general.
"Last year, we asked a question and we repeated it again this year to understand how voters in this important region are thinking about the future of nature. We define that for them as meaning our land, our water, air, and wildlife and asked them to basically tell us is the glass half full or is it half empty. So you can see when we asked them to tell us whether they were hopeful or more worried about the future of nature, increasingly we're getting some pessimistic responses,” Weigel explained. "Last year we thought folks were feeling a little glum, potentially the pandemic bleeding in to their sentiments about nature as well, but we see that's been exacerbated this year."
Nearly 70 percent of the almost 3,500 people surveyed said they are worried.