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Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Arizona | Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management

The Center for Western Priorities’ Winning the West: Election 2020 report reveals the growing trend of winning candidates highlighting their support for public lands and outdoor issues in order to connect with Mountain West voters in this year’s elections.

Public lands — how they are used, their importance to local economies, and the way they define life in the West — were a key component of winning campaigns in 2020, with 19 of the 21 races tracked in six Western states featuring significant pro-public lands advertising or messaging. …


How innovation and leadership can conserve our natural heritage for future generations

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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Horseshoe Bend

From national parks to national forests, our system of public lands is quintessentially American, accessible to all while conserving our natural heritage for future generations. As our parks and public lands become more popular than ever, there is an intense need for increased funding to repair existing infrastructure, conserve habitat, and provide increased access. Right now, America needs leadership and innovation from elected officials to identify funding sources to ensure those public lands are conserved for future generations.

Throughout the country, 640 million acres, from national monuments to wildlife refuges, are owned by and managed for the benefit of all…


Analysis reveals current administration actions on public lands, energy, and climate are unpopular among persuadable Western voters

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Winning the West website | poll | presentation

A new Winning the West 2020 poll by the Center for Western Priorities shows an “Outdoor Voting Bloc” in the Rocky Mountain West has cemented itself as an influential factor in election outcomes. The Winning the West poll and accompanying presentation — conducted for the third consecutive election cycle in Colorado, Montana, and Nevada, and for the second time in Arizona and New Mexico — reveal how issues involving public lands, parks, and wildlife play an outsized role in moving Western voters to the polls and influence how voters choose candidates.

Overwhelming majorities of voters in the Mountain West are…


Oil and gas companies are paying bargain rates to acquire and sit on millions of acres

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Visit the story map by clicking HERE

Editor’s note: The story map anaysis was updated in April 2020 and can be viewed here.

Across the American West, millions of acres of public lands are currently leased for oil and gas drilling. For decades, private companies have taken advantage of an outdated system that is tilted in favor of the oil and gas industry and against taxpayers. These oil and gas companies drive the process to lease the public’s land, pay extremely low bid rates, and leave millions of idle leased acres off limits to other uses.

While this is happening, the general public is often left in…


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Grand Teton National Park: Tobiason, National Park Service

As the 2020 election enters full swing — with presidential, gubernatorial, congressional, and senatorial campaigns already looking to carve out their positions — public lands, conservation, and outdoor recreation issues are poised to be major factors in important races.

Thoughtful, balanced positions on public lands, natural resources, and energy development can help both Democrats and Republicans appeal to voters in key Mountain West states, where these issues have special resonance, and to millions of active outdoor recreation, hunting, and fishing enthusiasts across the country.

The Center for Western Priorities has evaluated public opinion on these issues over recent election cycles…


Despite rhetoric, recent rulings indicate that the Interior Department’s energy free-for-all is on the wrong side of the law

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Permian Basin Oil Field in Eddy County, New Mexico | Blake Thornberry, Creative Commons

By Hannah Rider and Lucy Livesay

Since the start of the Trump administration, the Department of the Interior has offered more than 17 million acres of public lands for oil and gas development — in critical wildlife habitat, next door to iconic national parks, and throughout archaeologically-rich landscapes. In the rush to spur an energy free-for-all, Interior has neglected basic legal tenets. Now the courts are pushing back, dealing repeated setbacks to President Trump’s energy agenda.

In June 2017, President Trump vowed to usher in a “new era of American energy dominance.” Under the leadership of the former and current…


America’s national public lands deserve better than a walking conflict of interest

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Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on March 28 for a full committee hearing on his nomination to become the next Interior Secretary.

Before joining the Trump administration, David Bernhardt was a high-powered lobbyist and lawyer for oil, gas, and mining industries. …


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Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who is expected to have a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate this month, is currently fighting a document request from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, who wants to see Bernhardt’s calendars. Bernhardt’s public calendars have been exceptionally vague, consisting largely of “external” and “internal” meetings, and omitting other meetings, including two with the president of the American Petroleum Institute.

Rather than reveal who he meets with and what he’s working on to help his former clients, Bernhardt snarked back at Grijavla with a letter that talked a lot about transparency while actually…


How the recently passed public lands legislation could signal a shift in conservation policy

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Highlighting Overwhelming Public Support For National Monuments | Senator Heinrich Flickr

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich recently joined the Center for Western Priorities’ Aaron Weiss on Go West, Young Podcast to discuss the Senator’s thoughts on the role the outdoors and public lands played in the 2018 election, and what he’s looking forward to after Congress passed the largest public lands bill in more than a decade.

The following has been edited for clarity:

Center for Western Priorities Deputy Director, Aaron Weiss: Our guest today is the Junior Senator from the great state of New Mexico, he’s a former U.S. House member and city councilman in Albuquerque, and more importantly, he…


Candidates in 20 high profile Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and New Mexico races leveraged support for public lands to reach swing voters in the Mountain West

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Competitive statewide and congressional elections were closely watched in the 2018 midterm election. In those races, public lands and the outdoors played and outsized role, to the extent where candidates almost had to be pro-public lands in order to win.

Our just-released Winning the West: Election 2018 report reveals the growing trend of winning candidates in competitive races at the federal, state, and local level leveraging pro-public lands messages, positions, and imagery to connect with voters in the Mountain West.

Western Priorities

The Center for Western Priorities promotes responsible policies and practices to protect the West

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