Public access to the Yellow River in Wisconsin. Tony Webster via Flickr

A recent survey of American hunters and anglers suggests that public land is even more important for access to fishing than it is for hunting. And public land is critically important for both.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is an umbrella group that brings together sportsmen from across the country to advocate for habitat conservation and access. They recently hired Colorado researcher Lori Weigel, from the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, to take the temperature of American voters who hunt and fish.

Before digging into issues, Weigel asked where people hunt and fish, private land, public land or both. She found that 94 percent of anglers and 64 percent of hunters depend on public land for at least part of their pursuits.

Joel Webster, TRCP’s Director of the Center for Western Lands, said the numbers about hunter’s land use roughly correspond with other polls on the topic conducted by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. However, numbers about fishing are harder to come by – and a bit of a surprise. Webster allows that anglers answering the poll probably had in mind a broad array of lands and water, including lakes, rivers and reservoirs that allow public access.

The poll went on to ask sportsmen and sportswomen about an array of conservation issues that are brewing in Washington D.C. In short, the results demonstrate that outdoors folk know what’s good for them. Conserving clean water and quality wildlife habitat proved to be enormously popular, across the board. For example:

  • 97 percent agree that protecting and conserving public lands for future generations is important

  • 95 percent agree it is important to maintain public lands infrastructure, like roads, trails, campgrounds, and historic sites

  • 87 percent want no cuts to conservation in the federal budget

  • 82 percent support the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to conserve the greater sage grouse

  • 4 in 5 support Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands

  • 77 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats support keeping the number and size of existing national monuments that offer hunting and fishing

Webster noted that support for conservation was very strong regardless of the politics. Democrat, Republican and Third-Party sportsmen tend to support conservation and support it strongly. While that is not new, it is unusual given the highly polarized state of American politics these days.

“I hope that the politicians will listen to the people and do the right thing,” Webster said. “Issues like conservation of habitat and protecting clean water are not partisan and shouldn’t be politicized. It makes me wonder who politicians are listening to.”

The poll was of 1000 randomly selected hunters and anglers, surveyed by land-line, cell phone and online. Margin of error was plus/minus 3.5 percent. You can see the results here.