Socially distanced park-goers in New York City.
Sitting in the tree's shade People enjoy the afternoon on the Billings Lawn of Fort Tryon Park along the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan, New York. © Diane Cook and Len Jenshel


Conservation in the Age of COVID-19

New York voters envision a better future.

As COVID-19 took hold in New York, The Nature Conservancy worked hard to balance the safety of our staff with the need to keep preserves across the state open so that people could access the many benefits of nature. We also found creative ways to continue our critical conservation work, including the fight against climate change. 

Although the world is different now than it was three months ago, the urgent threats of our changing climate and its effects on the natural world have not disappeared. As we consider how to work most effectively in a changed world, it’s important to understand how public attitudes on environmental initiatives been shaped by the pandemic. Insights from New York State voters are giving us some clues.

The Nature Conservancy and FM3, a public opinion research firm, surveyed over 600 voters representing the demographics of New York, and found some encouraging news. Seventy percent of New York State voters believe that the pandemic recovery offers an opportunity to plan for future challenges, including climate change. The percentage of voters who believe that climate change will impact them personally is increasing. And, by a large margin, New Yorkers do not want to return to the past as it was. Quite the opposite—they want to create a much better future.

What could that future look like? We tested a range of potential initiatives, and found that voters are hopeful about the role that nature can play:   

  • There is broad and intense support for restoring the jobs that have been lost in our clean energy industry and creating new clean energy jobs (total support 87%);   
  • Over 90% percent of voters support making parks, open space, and natural areas more accessible to New Yorkers all over the state (total support 92%);
  • The same overwhelming percentage of voters also supports investing in natural and man-made infrastructure to help protect New York against natural disasters, like severe flooding, storms, fires, and floods (total support 92%). 

Voters also overwhelmingly supported promoting equitable access to parks by directing funds toward low-income communities and communities of color, which disproportionately lack these resources (86% support); and they liked the idea of creating jobs for young people aimed at reducing pollution, protecting land and water, and mitigating the risk of climate change (85%).

Another proposal that garnered strong support was limiting vehicle traffic on some city streets to allow for play, exercise, and outdoor dining—and that proposal received support statewide, not just in New York City (75%).

The insights continue, revealing important findings on public support for the environment in the age of COVID-19. These data give us hope—in a time when voters are very concerned about the economy and public health, they value the role of nature in meeting the challenges we face. And, they are eager to ensure that the approach to pandemic recovery helps creates a healthier, more equitable, and more livable planet through conservation. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.