by Jessica Goad
The National Wildlife Federation has issued a new poll outlining the priorities and opinions of America’s sportsmen (and women). Conducted by a Republican polling firm, the poll asked hunters and anglers who vote questions about conservation, public lands, energy, and climate change.
One of the most important findings is that 59% of sportsmen agree that “global warming is occurring,” while 69 percent say that we should reduce carbon emissions that are contributing to the problem.
The fact that outdoorsmen — 50 percent of whom identify as conservative — are firmly aware of the changes on our natural resources from global warming makes sense. As Theodore Roosevelt IV put it:
The nation’s fishermen and hunters are in the frontline of our field naturalists. Doing what they love best they see firsthand the impact of climate change on natural systems and our wildlife. Their conclusions are based on observations made over years spent in the out of doors.
Sportsmen also strongly value public lands and want to see a balanced energy policy that includes conservation — 88 percent believe that before the government issues oil and gas leases, it should analyze the impact of that energy development on access to and quality of hunting and fishing.
And when asked to compare the use of public lands for recreation as opposed to energy development, they overwhelmingly favor recreation. In total, 49 percent agree with the statement that “Protection of our public lands should be given priority, even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies such as oil, gas and coal that the United States produces.”
The value of protecting special places for sportsmen and women should not be underestimated: 47 percent believe that conservation is just as important as gun rights.
The tension between the use of public lands for hunting and fishing and energy development is a major issue today. For example, in Wyoming’s Noble Basin in Wyoming, a natural gas company has proposed drilling 136 wells in one of the state’s most wild and important big game hunting areas, causing local sportsmen great concern. Watch a short documentary about the issue here:
Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released data last month showing that the number of hunters and anglers is now climbing after “decades of decline.” Currently 37 million Americans hunt and fish, contributing billions of dollars to the economy every year.
The value of the sportsmen voting block has not been lost on politicians, who take the time to reach out to them. In February, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sent a press release announcing support of a “renowned conservationist.” And Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s campaign website includes a section specifically for sportsmen.
Despite this pandering, it is clear after seeing the results of this poll that if candidates truly seek the sportsmen vote, they would do well to support the policies that this group of people supports — addressing climate change, balancing energy development and conservation, and ensuring that future generations of American sportsmen can enjoy this important component of our heritage.
Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.