COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Centennial State may need a new nickname: the Conservation State.
The new “State of the Rockies” poll from Colorado College finds that two-thirds of Coloradans define themselves as conservationists – and virtually all Coloradans say public lands are an essential part of the state economy.
The poll finds that Coloradans think environmental issues such as low river levels and low snowpack are bigger problems than the state’s economy – and worries about water pollution have hit a three-year high.
Kristin Stephens is one of those worried Coloradans. The Fort Collins mom has seen the poll results – and she’s concerned the current boom in oil and gas development could destroy the state’s quality of life.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” she says. “And I think rushing this through and saying, ‘Yes, let’s open everything up.’ I think we need an honest dialogue with the governor and with all the players involved. Not just oil and gas.”
Fort Collins is one of several cities in the state trying to ban fracking in city limits. Governor John Hickenlooper has said regulating fracking and other oil and gas development is the state’s responsibility – and he supports using excess tax funds to study the industry’s air pollution impact.
Auden Schendler is vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. He says if Colorado tightened its regulations on oil and gas development, it would be good for business.
“Why wouldn’t we have the best regulations in the world?” he says. “And let’s get our natural gas and let’s do it in a way we all feel good about?”
Kristin Stephens says the poll shows that environmentalism has broad support.
“I think that there’s been some belief that this is just an environmentalist, like radical issue,” she says. “I don’t think that’s true at all. I want my kids to grow up with a sense of awe about the place that they live.”
The State of the Rockies poll surveyed 2,400 voters in six Western states, including 400 in Colorado.