Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Poll finds support for wilderness bill

Survey indicates majority of Idahoans favor BWC proposal

Express Staff Writer

Two out of three Idaho voters support Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson's Boulder-White Clouds wilderness proposal, according to a survey conducted by Moore Information, an independent, public opinion research company in Portland, Ore.

A total of 400 registered voters participated in the poll between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10. The Idaho Conservation League and Campaign for America's Wilderness hired Moore, which primarily works with Republican clients. All participants were randomly selected.

According to Moore, 59 percent of those surveyed favor Simpson's wilderness bill, while 25 percent were opposed.

The results came from a politically mixed bag of participants, with 45 percent saying they were conservative, 37 percent moderate, and 15 percent liberal.

Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said Moore was chosen to add credibility to the survey.

"It's very common for environmentalists to only talk to Democrats," Johnson said. "But it is in the best interests of both parties and the environment to break the partisan linkage. I think the poll shows, on this issue anyway, a lot of different people care about this place."

According to the survey, the majority of both off-road-vehicle and snowmobiling enthusiasts also support the proposed legislation.

Simpson's bill, known as the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, would include the designation of about 300,000 acres of land in the Boulder-White Clouds as wilderness. In exchange, 162 acres of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area would be transferred to the city of Stanley and Custer County for potential development. Additionally, about 2,000 acres of federal land would be transferred to the local county government and $18 million would be provided for economic development projects in Central Idaho.

All of the above information, in addition to other aspects of the bill, was provided to participants during the survey.

Blaine County is requesting about 440 acres of federal land for public infrastructure, including a fire station and garbage transfer station in Smiley Creek, land for the Ohio Gulch landfill, and a school bus turnaround at the end of Eagle Creek.

The most common reason for supporting the bill (18 percent) was the prospect of preserving additional land as wilderness. Sixteen percent said their main reason for supporting the bill was because of its proposed economic benefits.

Of those opposed to the bill, the majority (23 percent) said it was basically because the bill allows for too much development of federal land. Seventeen percent said the bill allows for too much federal control.

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