September 26, 2014 / 7:15 PM / 4 years ago

Voters in U.S. West oppose transfer of public lands to states: survey

(Reuters) - A majority of voters in Western U.S. states oppose proposals for local authorities to take over the management and costs of national forests and other public lands currently run by the federal government, a survey showed.

A poll of 1,600 voters in eight states released by the Center for American Progress think tank on Thursday found that only in Utah did a majority, 52 percent, support the idea of transferring those lands to state control.

Overall, 59 percent of respondents said such a move would not be fair to taxpayers in their state.

“The overwhelming majority of Westerners view the national forests and other public lands they use as American places that are a shared inheritance and a shared responsibility,” said one of the pollsters, David Metz of FM3 Research.

“Voters say their top priorities are to ensure public lands are protected for future generations and that the rangers and land managers have the resources they need to do their jobs.”

Utah enacted a law in 2012 calling for U.S. public lands there to be transferred to state control, and similar proposals have been put forward in several other Western states.

“The idea of states taking over control and the costs for managing these lands is pretty divisive,” said Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies, which also worked on the survey.

While more Westerners disapprove than approve of the job the federal government is doing, the pollsters said, more of them approve of the job done by specific land management agencies, led by the National Park Service with 60 percent approval and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with 58 percent.

It said 94 percent of respondents reported that their last visit to national public lands was a positive experience.

The survey was conducted by phone earlier this month and questioned 200 voters each in eight states: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Sandra Maler

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