Conservation a top priority for hunters, anglers

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The conservation of public lands is as important as gun rights, protecting public lands should take precedence over the production of energy resources, and global warming is behind the recent rise in temperatures, according to a new national survey of American hunters and anglers.

Weeks before a presidential election in which domestic energy production is a recurring theme, the national public opinion poll shows strong bipartisan support for recreational use of public lands and a strong conservation ethic among respondents.

The telephone poll of 800 self-identified hunters and anglers who had registered to vote was conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 1 for the National Wildlife Federation, the largest private, nonprofit conservation education and advocacy organization in the United States.

"Candidates at all levels should answer this simple question: What's your plan for protecting our outdoor heritage for our children's future?" NWF president and CEO Larry Schweiger, a Pittsburgh native and former president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, said in a written statement. "These are ethics that sustain America's wildlife, outdoor economy and healthy families."

After years in decline, hunting participation is increasing, and fishing continues to rise. A recent unrelated report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found hunting was up 9 percent and fishing was up 11 percent from 2006-11, with more than 37 million Americans spending some $90 billion on hunting, fishing or both. Outdoor recreation in general contributes $730 billion to the economy, according to NWF.

"All of us who fish and hunt know the best fishing and hunting begins where the road ends," said Ed Perry, Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for NWF's climate change campaign. "Habitat is important for hunting and fishing."

Among the poll's key findings:

• 47 percent believe gun rights and conservation are equally important.

• 49 percent believe protecting public lands should take priority over developing oil, gas and coal. 34 percent favor developing energy supplies even if public lands suffer.

• 59 percent agree that global warming is occurring (86 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents. 45 percent of Republicans).

• 79 percent support restoring Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and waterways (94 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, 73 percent of Republicans).

Margin of error plus or minus 3.2 percent. Read the entire poll at http://www.nwf.org.

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