From the Blue Ribbon Coalition:
Heck of an article, and congrats to them for spending the $$$ to conduct the poll and blow the SUWA folks out of the water. But then they will just lie about something else. I've always thought that "our" side has to be much more deligent and thoughtful becuase you needs facts, logic and reason to combat lies, emotions and hysteria.
Utah Poll Shows Strong Support For OHV Recreation
by Sheldon Kinsel,
Western Counties Resource Policy Institute
A poll taken in Utah recently provides additional evidence of public support for public access to the public lands and for motorized recreation. At the same time, it exposes the lies and misrepresentations of the Wilderness extremists and the anti-access crowd.
The poll was sponsored by several groups, including the BlueRibbon Coalition, the Western Counties Institute, Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) and several individuals. It was conducted April 12 and 13, 2000 by Public Opinion Strategies, Inc., a nationally respected polling firm located in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm polled 400 Utahns, giving the results a margin of error of plus or minus just under 5%.
It is clear that the debate over management of federally-managed land in Utah and protecting public access to them is something which directly affects the majority of Utahns. When asked, "how much do you use Utah's federal lands for recreation activities," more than one in four, 27%, reported that they used these lands "a lot." Of those polled, 38% said they used them "some" for a total of these two categories of 64%. Only 21% said that they did no use these lands very often and only 13% said they never used them.
When asked an open-ended question, "What is the most important benefit to you from recreating on Utah's federal lands" there was strong support for using these lands for a variety of recreational activities including hunting, fishing, recreating with friends and family and enjoying nature and the scenery.
Motorized recreation in all its various forms is growing in popularity and the groups wanted to know how people perceived the level of recreation access they had to Utah's public lands. So respondents were asked: "Do you believe that recreation access to federal lands is greater now than five years ago, less than five years ago, or about the same?" Two thirds of the people said they thought it was about the same or less than five years ago, with exactly half of this group falling into each category. Only one in four thought that recreation access was greater than five years ago.
The groups also wanted to test the validity of a couple of the fundamental assertions made by a regional radical environmental group, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) in a "report" they concocted on off highway vehicle use in Utah. Intuitively, the groups knew that there is a great deal of misinformation, distortion and half truths in this document but wanted to refute it with factual polling data.
In the Executive Summary of its report, SUWA makes the following statement: "At the same time, the majority of public lands recreational users prefer non-motorized means of access, and are displaced by widespread ORV use." In other places in that report, SUWA uses this supposed existence of a claimed "majority of people who prefer solitude and a self-propelled adventure" to justify trying to lock motorized users out of as much land as they can get away with. The "claim" is commonly repeated by other anti-access groups across the West.
Now, even giving a little thought to SUWA's statements most people will realize that they are absurd. No one ever sees even the most dedicated SUWA members, backpacks on their back, walking along the highway from Salt Lake even to the San Rafael Swell, a distance of nearly 200 miles, much less to southern Utah which is even farther away. So, how do they get there? They drive. And do they park their vehicles at the boundary of the federal land and walk along the roads from there to trail heads? Of course not. They DRIVE to the trail head and THEN start backpacking.
To get the facts, the pollsters asked Utahns: "Do you use a motorized vehicle when you travel to Utah's federal lands or when you use the land for recreation?" A whopping 86%, an overwhelming majority, said yes they did. In other words, virtually everyone who uses the public lands uses a motor vehicle in some capacity.
Sorry, SUWA, caught again.
The poll asked another question to test another SUWA assertion which is equally absurd. SUWA says in its report: "As many as 98% of public land users don't drive ORV's" and cite a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department Opinion Survey of Montanans as the evidence. (From "Introduction," of the SUWA document, second paragraph). The reader needs to also understand that SUWA defines "ORV's" as "four-wheel drive cars and trucks, ATV's and motorcycles" (Forget, gentle reader, about asking the logical question of why SUWA uses a Montana opinion survey in a report which examines Utah ORV use. The explanation is that there is not a single rocket scientists in the entire group).
Now, what may apply to Montana clearly does not apply to Utah. The pollsters asked the 86% of Utahns who said that they used motorized access or enjoyed motorized recreation what kinds of vehicles they used. Two thirds of those people used a truck or four-wheel drive, or an "ORV" under SUWA's definition. That is a long, long way from the "as many as 98% of public land users" who SUWA claims "don't drive ORV's."
Sorry, SUWA, caught yet again.
While on the topic of the SUWA report and what the majority of Utahn's really want, the poll asked the general question: "Now, I would like to read to you some activities that might be done on Utah's federal lands, and please tell me whether you favor or oppose it." One of the options was "Improving and maintaining roads and trails to disperse use and address environmental concerns." Again, an overwhelming majority of Utahn's, a total of 82% said they "strongly favored" (48% of those surveyed) or "somewhat favored" (34% of those surveyed) doing that.
It is especially significant that nearly half put themselves in the "strongly favor" category and that the number in that category significantly outnumbered the "somewhat favor" response group, showing very strong support for this approach. It is exactly the opposite approach that SUWA is advocating, which is to try to lock the people out of their lands. The poll also asked: "Who do you think should decide which roads and trails are needed by the public and other land users on federal land...the county commission in the county in which the federal land is located, the state government or the federal government?" Half of Utahns said that they thought the county commissions in the counties in which the lands are located should decide. About a third, 35%, thought it should be the state government. Only 10% thought it should be the federal government. Among other things, this finding shows strong support for the efforts of Utah's rural county commissions to protect RS 2477 rights of way. It also suggests overwhelming public support for a lawsuit to defend these rights which the State announced in May that it would file against the federal government.
In one of the most significant findings, the poll asked Utahns to agree or disagree with the statement: "Roads and trails on federal lands in Utah which have historically been open to public use should remain open to public use." Again, by an overwhelming margin, Utahns support that statement. Fully 68% "strongly agree," which the pollsters noted shows very committed support. An additional 23% "somewhat agree," bringing to 91% the total number who agree with the statement. This question used virtually the definition of a valid RS 2477 right of way and is further evidence of overwhelming public support for the efforts to defend these RS 2477 property rights.
The poll asked Utahns what type of roads were important to their recreation use of their public land. As expected, paved highways were important, being listed as "very important" by 50% of the respondents and "somewhat important" by 27% for a total of 77%. This is the most basic type of motorized recreational use, sightseeing or traveling on paved highways to established campgrounds, picnic areas, viewpoints and so on, and certainly was not a surprising result.
What was surprising, however, were the results for other categories of roads. An even higher total number, 82%, said that "graveled roads" were very or somewhat important. Leaving the paved roads is a step up in adventuresomeness, of course. Even more surprising is that almost as many Utahns, 76%, said that "dirt roads" were very important or somewhat important to their recreation enjoyment of federally-managed land. Many of these roads are challenging to the average suburban recreationist.
Perhaps the most surprising finding, however, was the large number, 46%, of Utahns who say that "unimproved roads and jeep trails" are important to their recreation. These are the truly adventuresome routes, which require a relatively higher level of skill to enjoy. It is also these routes which SUWA is targeting first in their efforts to deny the public access to their lands. None of the groups expected that nearly half of Utahns who use these lands for motorized recreation would say that these roads are "very important" or "somewhat important" to them.
Finally, the poll asked a series of questions to determine what it is that makes motorized recreation important to the 86% of Utahns who engage in it. Respondents were asked whether each statement applied "very well" or "somewhat well" to them.
The statement which had the highest level of agreement, 86%, was "It allows entire families to recreate outdoors together." In fact 57% of Utahns said that statement described them "very well."
In other findings, 72% agreed that "it allows access to these lands despite health or age limitations,." And 80% agreed that motorized recreation "permits enjoying more areas in limited recreation time." In other findings, 71 % agreed that "it gives a feeling of adventure," 74% said that it "increased their appreciation of nature," 74% said that it "was the only practical way for them to get to some of their favorite places," and 45% said that it "provides a sense of accomplishment at using their skills to negotiate tough terrain" in their motorized vehicle.
In summary, this poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Utahns engage in some form of motorized recreation. A large majority say that a variety of types of roads are important to their recreation. By an overwhelming majority, they think that roads and trails which have historically been open to the public should remain open. Half think that the county commissioners should be the ones to decide on what roads and trail should cross federal lands and only ten percent think that the federal government should be the one to decide. Utahns support improving and maintaining roads to provide more recreation opportunities and a majority feel that their access to their lands is the same or less than it was five years ago. Finally, very large majorities say that motorized recreation is an important family activity, that it allows them to get to places and enjoy them that they would not otherwise be able to and that it allows them to better enjoy nature.
No doubt, similar responses would result from administering the poll in other public lands states of the West.
‹For questions of comments pertaining to this article, contact USA-All at: P.O. Box 526008, Salt Lake City, UT, 84106; phone: (801) 484-3940, fax: (801) 484-0482, email [email protected]