Latinos Back Public Lands

New Poll Results Consistent with recent findings in the West

As much as communities of color in the U.S. are portrayed as loosely tied to the outdoors and public lands, Latinos in particularly have shattered that stereotype in poll after the poll, the latest being Conservation in the West Poll, released Tuesday by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project.

Asked what the Trump Administration should emphasize, 75 percent of Latino voters in seven Mountain West states said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands, according to the poll. Only 17 percent of Latinos said they preferred the administration placing an emphasis on producing more domestic energy by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

The findings specific to Latinos were part of a poll of 400 registered voters of all races in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. They were consistent with previous findings by Colorado State, now in its seventh year of the bipartisan poll. In 2016, 84 percent of Latinos considered issues involving public lands, waters, and wildlife as important as the economy, health care and education when deciding whether to support an elected public official, and 65 percent opposed giving state governments control over public lands.

Among the 2017 poll’s major, albeit unsurprising findings:

  • 94 percent of Latinos supported improving and repairing infrastructure in national parks and other outdoor destinations.
  • 83 percent of Latinos supported allowing more wind and solar energy projects on public lands.
  • 80 percent of Latinos supported improving access to public lands for hunters, anglers and hikers.
  • 81 percent of Latinos supported promoting the outdoor economy.
  • 63 percent of Latinos supported streamlining the ability for hunting, rafting and other recreation activities to receive permits to operate on public lands.
  • 29 percent of Latinos supported allowing oil and gas companies to purchase the right to drill in new areas of national public lands.
  • 30 percent of Latinos supported allowing more coal mining on public lands.

Approval of the federal land management agencies was high among Latinos in the Colorado State poll – 79 percent approved of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 70 percent approved of the U.S. Forest Service, and 57 percent approved of the Bureau of Land Management. Eighty-nine percent of Latino voters supported keeping national monument designations in place, while 56 percent opposed turning federal public lands over to state control.

Other polls have uncovered similar attitudes among Latino voters. In 2015, for example, a nationwide poll by The New York Times and Stanford University found that Latinos placed a higher priority than white voters on combating the impacts of global warming, sometimes by overwhelming margins. Latinos, the largest ethnic group in the U.S., already spend more per capita on outdoor gear than any racial group, including whites, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s ConsumerVue research.

“Latinos view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. Time and again, we hear Latino youth and community leaders say these public lands are important to us and we must protect them for future generations,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, which promotes civic engagement and grassroots outreach. “A number of the national monuments passed in the last decade greatly increased the diversity of stories and sites protected by our public land management agencies. This has helped ensure a broader representation of America is honored and reflected in our system of public lands.”

The growing focus on environmental issues and publics lands stewardship has spawned a burgeoning movement of Latino-led groups and programs, such as Hispanic Access, in recent years.