Voters in the Appalachian Shale Region Demonstrate Consensus on the Value of Forests and the Need to Reduce Future Impacts from Energy Development
Respondents support establishing strong safeguards as a condition on further natural gas development
Appalachia Poll Memo
Results of the survey on Appalachian voter attitudes toward forest health and natural gas development.
Voters in the nation’s Appalachian shale gas region express high appreciation of regional forests and favor taking steps to ensure that shale gas development does not harm forests or the widespread benefits they provide—from jobs to clean air and water—according to a bipartisan poll released today by The Nature Conservancy. More than 80 percent of respondents said they would support establishing strong environmental safeguards as a condition on further natural gas development. Specific actions endorsed include regional planning, science-based protections and guidelines, and requirements to prevent or repair damage to natural areas.
“The Central Appalachians region is at the core of the national debate on how to keep our lands and waters healthy while tapping domestic energy resources,” says Nels Johnson, shale gas lead for the North America energy program at The Nature Conservancy. “This poll affirms that the people living in this region support establishing strong environmental safeguards to protect forests, which are sources of crucial resources like clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, jobs, and as places for outdoor recreation.”
The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization, contracted with a bipartisan research team to survey 1,250 voters living in the Marcellus, Utica, and Devonian shale regions of N.Y., Penn., Ohio, Md., W.Va., Ky., and Va. This area, known as the Central Appalachians, is the epicenter of natural gas development in the U.S. due to the presence of huge natural gas reserves in these underground shale formations. The survey sought to assess voters’ perceptions and priorities surrounding natural gas development and the conservation of nature in the region.
The accompanying memo from the bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates (Democrat) and American Viewpoint (Republican) summarizes the survey results. Key findings include:
• A clear majority of voters (68 percent) consider Central Appalachian forests “critical to the local economy” and more than three-quarters of voters in the region consider their forests a “national treasure”
• When offered a choice, a majority (54 percent) of voters prioritize conserving forests, natural areas and wildlife habitat over natural gas development—even if doing so would lead to higher energy costs
• To protect forests, rivers, and streams from the potential negative effects of natural gas development in the Central Appalachians, robust majorities of voters in the region support establishing strong environmental safeguards as a condition on further natural gas development, including:
o Requiring natural gas developers, before they start drilling, to prepare regional plans for locating their wells and pipelines to reduce impacts on wildlife habitat and water quality (93 percent)
o Requiring natural gas developers to prevent or fix any negative impacts that drilling, pipelines, and roads may have on forests or water quality (92 percent)
o Requiring companies that drill for natural gas to follow guidelines based on sound science to guide their decisions about where to put natural gas wells (91 percent)
The Nature Conservancy is actively collaborating with local communities, the energy industry, government agencies, and other conservation groups to minimize the effects of current and future energy development on the region’s water resources, forests and wildlife by contributing sound science to the formation of guidelines for development.
In the coming months, the Conservancy will be releasing a scientific analysis of the potential impact of energy development within the Central Appalachians region on the natural systems and resources on which people rely, as well as robust and a sophisticated tool to aid development companies in making siting decisions for well pads and other infrastructure to avoid and minimize impacts to forests and the benefits they provide to people.
These soon-to-be-released products are components of the Conservancy’s work across the Central Appalachian region to protect ecologically important lands and waters for both nature and people. Around the world, the Conservancy is working to leverage its scientific expertise to both provide a holistic view of how future development could affect our natural systems, and offer solutions for ensuring their health over the long-term for the people and wildlife that depend upon them. Known as Development by Design, this approach supports energy, mining, and infrastructure development done in the right way and in the right places.
More information about The Nature Conservancy’s Central Appalachian goals and strategies is available at: nature.org/centralappalachians. For more information on the results of the poll and The Nature Conservancy’s energy work, visit nature.org/energy.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.