UI poll finds 89% of Idahoans support livestock grazing on public lands

BOISE — (Feb. 22, 2011) — A new statewide poll found that 89 percent of Idaho residents approve of livestock grazing as a legitimate practice on public lands, and 85 percent support it as an appropriate use along with hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and hunting.

The statewide telephone poll of 618 Idaho households was conducted by the University of Idaho Social Science Research Unit for the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission (IRRC) in December. It is a statistically valid poll that sampled a broad cross-section of Idaho’s rural and urban residents, an equal number of males and females, people from different political persuasions, and mobile phone users as well as landline users. The poll has an accuracy rating of 96 percent.

IRRC officials said they commissioned the poll to understand the overall perception of Idaho residents about grazing, and how those perceptions might be evolving due to changes in Idaho’s population demographics and the emergence of the “New West.” IRRC officials released the poll today to foreshadow a program sponsored by the Idaho Environmental Forum called “Ranching in the 21st Century” at noon Thursday at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel in Boise. The event is open to the public.

Despite the major population growth that Idaho has experienced over the last decade, public support for livestock grazing on public lands has remained steady, and newer residents support livestock grazing just as strongly as long-time Idaho residents or native Idahoans, the poll found.

“That was somewhat surprising to us considering the rapid growth that Idaho has experienced,” said Gretchen Hyde, executive director of IRRC. “Newcomers to Idaho may not know as much about multiple use management as long-time Idahoans. So we will continue to work on educational initiatives to spread the word about best management practices and stewardship initiatives to ensure that grazing is an environmentally sustainable activity on our public lands.”

Three Idaho ranchers will participate in the Idaho Environmental Forum panel on Thursday — John Noh, owner of the Noh Sheep Company, from Kimberly, Idaho, Chris Black, a Bruneau rancher who practices holistic management techniques, and Cheryl Bennett, sales director for Lava Lake Ranch near Carey, which markets certified organic lamb grown on the ranch. All three ranchers are engaged in leading-edge management practices to enhance rangeland health and co-exist with recreationists and wildlife on public lands.

Noh, Bennett and Black also are featured on a new web site called “Life on the Range,” an educational project sponsored by IRRC. Life on the Range showcases seven stories about the ever-changing landscape of ranching, multiple-use management, entrepreneurial spirit, family and stewardship on Idaho’s rangelands. More stories are planned this year.

The UI poll also found that:

  • 91 percent said that the economic well-being of communities should be given high priority when making decisions about public rangelands.
  • 86 percent said that grazing should remain a part of the management of public lands.
  • 84 percent said that private rangelands provide a large portion of wildlife habitat on the home ranch.
  • 73 percent agreed that the loss of rangelands to development is a growing problem.
  • 72 percent said that cattle and sheep producers manage their lands in a responsible manner, a slight increase from 68 percent in 2001 and 62 percent in 1997.
  • 59 percent of Idahoans say that Idaho rangelands are in very good or good condition. The results of this question compared to responses in the 44 percent range in 2001, and 45 percent in 1997.
  • Another poll question showed that 42 percent of Idaho residents would be interested in purchasing locally produced food if the producer is engaged in responsible stewardship practices. Another 35 percent said they are buying more locally produced food than they have in the past.

If any members of the Idaho media would like a copy of the UI public opinion survey, please contact Steve Stuebner at 208-484-0295 or email Steve at sstuebner@cableone.net. If you would like to set up an interview with Gretchen Hyde about the poll, please contact Steve.

About the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission: The Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission is an Idaho state agency. It seeks to increase public understanding about the balanced management of public rangelands, it promotes rangeland stewardship, and it provides information and educational materials to Idaho’s schoolchildren. For more information, see www.idrange.org.