California voters and those in ten other western states strongly support developing wind and solar energy on public lands. That’s according to a new bipartisan poll that also found an even greater number want some of the rents or royalties from developers to be reinvested in wildlife and land conservation. The Wilderness Society commissioned the poll. Its clean energy policy director, Chase Huntley, summarizes the findings.
“The view of most Western voters – more than seven out of ten – is that wind and solar make sense on public lands. But overwhelmingly, nearly eight out of ten believe revenues from development should be returned to local communities and to the land.”
There are already systems in place to divert rents from oil, gas and other development on federal lands to local government, but not for solar or wind. Pending legislation to change that has bipartisan support from California’s Congressional delegation. (The bills are HR 5991, HR 6154, and S 1775.)
Helen O’Shea, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, points out that the California desert has some of the best solar and wind resources in the world.
“And we have a great opportunity to continue to lead by striking the right balance on our public lands and by wisely using the revenue from energy development to benefit conservation and communities.”
If money was set aside for conservation, the pollsters also asked how it should be used – for parks and refuges, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, or creating new hunting and fishing areas. Support for those ideas ranged from 72 to 85 percent, and pollster Christine Matthews says politics didn’t appear to play a role.
“There’s no daylight whatsoever between Democrats, Independents and Republicans on creating new fishing and hunting areas to replace those impacted. Whatever damage is done, they feel strongly that they want that to be corrected; they want it to be fixed.”
The poll of almost 2,000 voters was conducted jointly in August by two polling firms – one Republican and one Democratic. More information is online at wilderness.org.