Put more funding toward safeguarding air, land and water, Utahns say

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Promontory Mountains and the Wasatch Range beyond push through the deteriorating air quality Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

Three-fourths of Utah voters say there is at least “some need” for more state funding to protect air, land and water in the Beehive State, and more than a third say the need is “great,” according to a poll commissioned by The Nature Conservancy.

The national foundation, which purchases land and easements for the sake of preserving natural habitats, sponsored the survey of 602 voters across the state in response to Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposal to divert $100 million of the state’s $1.3 billion budget surplus toward air-quality programs. This idea garnered support of 78 percent of those surveyed, with near unanimity among Democrats.

“We’ve reached a tipping point on these issues,” said Dave Livermore, The Nature Conservancy’s Utah director. “Across all demographics, Utahns are saying that the protection of air, land and water matters to them, and they are counting on legislators to address these priorities.”

The bipartisan pollster FM3 Research and New Bridge Strategy conducted the survey from Feb. 11-18 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Pollsters queried voters about the relative importance they put on a number of environmental initiatives. A report released Wednesday highlighted the initiatives in which a majority said such initiatives were either extremely or very important.

Here are some, along with the percentage of voters who identified them as at least very important: Improving water quality and reducing pollution, 76 percent; monitoring and improving air quality, 71 percent; protecting waters in rivers, lakes and streams, 69 percent; protecting important fish and wildlife habitat, 65 percent; saving family farms and ranches, 59 percent; purchasing and conserving key natural areas threatened by development, 51 percent.

“Utahns deserve to live in a state where they can breathe healthy air, and depend on clean waters and viable natural lands,” said Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City, a member of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee. “By making it a priority to fund air quality and conservation this year, the Legislature can show how much they value their constituents’ well-being and future.”