Is Chelan County more conservation-minded than some think?
WENATCHEE — Most Chelan County voters believe public lands are good for the economy, and reject the idea that taking land off the tax rolls has a negative impact, a poll released Wednesday says.
Overall, the survey of 609 voters in the newly-created 8th Congressional District shows that people on both the east and west sides of the Cascade Mountains care about their public lands, and want to preserve it.
Chelan County Commissioners Doug England and Ron Walter said it’s no surprise that people here support public land, but said that doesn’t necessarily mean they want more of it.
Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, conducted the interviews, including more than 250 in Chelan County, for Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. The margin of error is plus or minus 6.2 percent.
Coalition spokeswoman Cynara Lilly said her group wanted to determine whether constituents throughout the new district supports wildlife conservation.
She said Congressman Dave Reichert has been a strong supporter of conservation programs, and the coalition wants to make sure he knows his new constituents in Chelan County do, too.
“He’s representing a new district, and a lot of people think of it as conservative,” she said. “We wanted to find out if that was true,” she said.
She said the findings should interest anyone representing Chelan County voters.
“Whether at the local, federal or state level, it’s a pretty clear message,” she said.
England said he was among those who took the survey, and he felt, by the questions asked, that it was directed toward a certain outcome.
“I don’t think any of us disagree that in strategic areas, there’s a tremendous benefit to public land,” he said. But with 87 percent of the county in public ownership, he and other commissioners don’t believe it benefits the county or taxing districts can handle additional public lands.
None of the questions in the poll directly asked if voters supported state or federal agencies buying more private land.
England and Walter both said they’ve been working with state and federal agencies to try to balance new land acquisitions with releasing public land that doesn’t fit the agency’s mission to the private sector.
He said agency officials he’s met with say they are being pushed to purchase land in Chelan County, “and all indicate they don’t have enough money to take care of what they have.”
Among the findings for Chelan County voters:
77 percent say public lands are good for the state, support the economy and enhance our quality of life.
18 percent said public lands are bad for the state by taking land off the tax rolls and taking away jobs such as logging and mining.
64 percent describe themselves as conservationists.
70 percent say we can protect land and water, and have a strong economy without having to choose one over the other.
82 percent say we have a moral responsibility to care for “God’s creation.”
67 percent say funding to protect land, air and water should not be cut.
39 percent identified themselves as Republican, 19 percent as Democrat, and 41 percent as Independent.