A new poll completed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Nature Conservancy shows that Gulf Coast voters remain very concerned about the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and overwhelmingly support using the fines resulting from the oil spill on Gulf restoration and conservation projects. More than three in five voters (61 percent) say that the “after-effects of the BP oil spill on natural areas and wildlife along the Gulf Coast” are an “extremely” or “very serious” problem for the region. That figure is up from 57 percent in 2013 and ranks among the top concerns of the region: the economy (67 percent), education (66 percent), and crime (62 percent).
“This poll reveals continued strong concern by the people of the Gulf region for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the strong belief by a broad cross-section of the population that funds from the recently announced settlement with BP should be invested in restoring and conserving the natural features that make the Gulf such a beautiful, biologically rich, and productive place,” said Robert Bendick, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program.
Nearly seven in ten (68 percent) voters said RESTORE Act funds “should be used mainly for restoration of our beaches, wildlife habitat, coastal areas, rivers and other waters that affect the Gulf Coast.” Just 17 percent preferred that funds “be used mainly for construction of roads, convention centers, school buildings, and other projects on the Gulf Coast.” Republicans (68 percent) were even more likely than Democrats (58 percent) to prioritize restoration projects over construction. More than a third of the residents polled said that they’ve purchased a license to hunt or fish in the last three years, and these sportsmen were also more likely to back conservation projects.
“The economy and culture of the Gulf Coast are absolutely dependent upon access to high-quality fishing and other recreational activities,” said Whit Fosburgh, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s president and CEO. “Gulf residents recognize the significance of this opportunity to repair the direct damage from the oil spill, as well as long-term threats to the quality of the entire ecosystem, using fines from the 2010 disaster. Investing in the Gulf’s fisheries, wildlife, beaches, and waters is not choosing between the ecosystem and the economy. The ecosystem is the economy.”
The bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) partnered to complete this survey of registered voters along the Gulf Coast. The results show little change from a similar survey completed in 2013, illustrating that voters place a lasting value on the health of the Gulf as contributing to the region’s economy and culture.
The poll will be presented in detail today at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s annual Saltwater Media Summit, a gathering of journalists to discuss the most timely conservation policy issues impacting saltwater fishing. This year, the event takes place at ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, where TRCP has invited science and policy experts to discuss red snapper management and harvest collection, reauthorization of the country’s major fisheries conservation law, and priority projects for Gulf Coast habitat restoration in the wake of an $18.7-billion settlement from BP. Notable speakers include Dr. Roy Crabtree of NOAA Fisheries and representatives of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, and Coastal Conservation Association.