Most voters support preserving sage-grouse habitat, poll finds

A new survey shows a majority of voters of all political stripes like the idea of preserving sagebrush landscapes where greater sage-grouse reside. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

SALT LAKE CITY – Westerners have a soft spot for greater sage-grouse, according to a new poll released this week. A majority of voters surveyed in counties that are home to sage-grouse support plans to conserve sagebrush habitat even if it includes some restrictions on energy development.

Pollster Danny Franklin with the Benenson Strategy Group says the results hold true in every state where sage-grouse live, and across political lines. But he says it isn’t just about the bird.

“What people are saying is that there’s something special about the Western landscape, and the lands in which the greater sage-grouse makes its home, that they want to preserve,” says Franklin.

Three in four voters believe it is important to take action to keep sage-grouse habitat healthy. When broken down by party, 68 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats shared that view.

The polling was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by two firms, one considered Democratic-leaning, the Benenson Group, and one considered Republican-leaning, Public Opinion Strategies.

Even when actions to conserve sagebrush habitat mean some restrictions on energy development, the poll says voters still are on board – with 61 percent approving.

Ken Rait, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public lands director, says the point of the survey was to understand what residents in sagebrush country think about Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service plans for habitat.

“It’s important for the administration, that is on the verge of writing records of decisions around these plans, to know that they’ve got the support of the people who live in the places where the sage-grouse do,” says Rait.

Additional survey questioning about whether more needs to be done to safeguard sagebrush habitat found that 60 percent either like the current proposal or want stronger actions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide later this year whether to protect greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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