Arizona Wilderness Coalition logo  







February 2, 2012

New Poll Shows Arizonans Want Protected Public Lands

Sonoran Desert Heritage Proposal for Wilderness and National Conservation Areas Offers Key Economic, Quality of Life Benefits


                     Ian Dowdy, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, 602-252-5530

                     Dave Richins, Sonoran Institute, 602-625-5162

                     Tom Mackin, Arizona Wildlife Federation, 928-814-2603

                     Mike Quigley, The Wilderness Society, 520-334-8741

PHOENIX—Arizona conservation groups applauded the results from a new 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll this week that found Arizona voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in-between – support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas, and wildlife. Voters also view Arizona’s protected public lands as essential to their state’s economy and quality of life.

The survey, completed by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that 9 in 10 Arizona voters agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the state economy and the quality of life of residents. The survey found that 78 percent of Arizona voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

The results support the goals of one local proposal in western Maricopa County—the Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation plan—which aims to use federal designations on Bureau of Land Management Lands to better safeguard wildlife habitat, quiet recreational opportunities, and open space over approximately 750,000 acres that belong to the American people. Groups backing the plan will take legislation for the proposal to Congress this year.

“The Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation proposal aims to protect the very lands, watersheds, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities that Arizonans cherish in this state,” says Ian Dowdy, conservation associate with the statewide Arizona Wilderness Coalition, which develops citizen-proposed wilderness plans into congressional legislation and permanent protection for wild places across Arizona. “Our plan all along has been to build the strongest, locally driven case for why Arizonans want and need these open spaces protected, and take that message back to Congress with a diverse base of support.”

“Whether we’re talking about the forests along the Mogollon Rim, the canyon lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, or the stunning varied ecosystems of the Sonoran desert, a strong majority of our citizens have voiced their support for all of these important wildlife habitats,” says Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

"These poll results show that Arizonans love our state's landscapes and wildlife and want them protected," says Mike Quigley with the Arizona office of The Wilderness Society. "As we celebrate Arizona's centennial, we have an opportunity to continue a legacy of conservation for future generations to enjoy."

The Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation proposal enjoys backing from diverse constituents like Luke Air Force Base, Valley churches, local businesses, city and county elected officials, and major developers. It has been endorsed by the Arizona Republic and official State Historian Marshall Trimble.

The Colorado College poll also found that Arizona voters are concerned about air pollution (84 percent see it as a serious problem in their state) and want to transition from coal to cleaner renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, which 72 percent of voters view as local job creators. Many areas in western Maricopa County are under consideration for major solar development sites, a process that conservation groups are watching carefully to ensure minimal conflicts between solar sites and critical wildlife habitat.

A study conducted by Arizona State University in April 2011, found that human-powered recreation, such as hiking, wildlife watching, hunting, and other outdoor related recreation, generates nearly $371 million in annual state tax revenue and produces almost $5.2 billion annually in retail sales and services across Arizona.[i]

“We have an incredible opportunity here in Arizona to set a new standard for how conservation and environmental stewardship are done,” says Dave Richins, director of the Sonoran Institute’s Sun Corridor Legacy Program. “Arizonans understand that protected open spaces, clean air and water, and other amenities give our state a clear, competitive economic advantage. The Sonoran Desert Heritage proposal is just one piece of a holistic solution to the sustainability issues that face our region.”

The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six key western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 and 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

# # #


The Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation plan strives to protect Arizona’s natural and cultural legacy for future generations. More information at

[i] Bavousett and O’Neill, Sustainable Economic Benefits of Human-Powered Recreation in the State of Arizona. Arizona State University School of Sustainability, April 2011.


-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement