The Language of Conservation

Washington, DC (June 1, 2004)- In 2004, the Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy commissioned a poll conducted by two public opinion research firms, one Democrat, one Republican. Together, they interviewed 1,500 registered likely voters, of which 500 were in the West and 200 were Latino households. These “lessons learned” regarding the language of conservation are drawn from both qualitative and quantitative research. There are two main correlations.


First, the results should be taken seriously. They show where we are winning and losing, which arguments are strong and which need to be bolstered, where our shortcomings are, and how to proceed most productively. For example, responses showed that the public does not currently see an environmental problem. However, they are concerned with “preserving” what they perceive to be high environmental quality. This means that if we want to be relevant, we should consider an approach that is more conservation and planned development, rather than environmentalist and protectionist.
The second correlation is: that such a survey was commissioned, conducted, and reviewed on the broad national level indicates immense progress for the conservation community. In the 2008 national elections, the party that will carry office will be the party that creates a re-centered coalition. In any national election, there are two ways to win: carry a majority of the fractured coalitions, or create a re-centered coalition. I am not saying that the re-centered coalition will hinge on the conservation community, but an issue that holds a united group of moderates from left-leaning to right-leaning is just this community. So, if played right, this community has an opportunity to be instrumental in which party wins office in 2008.
Also, there are two “W’s”- water and working forests, farms and ranches- that should be included in discussions of land conservation with the public. A third “W”- wildlife- resonates strongly with activists.
Related Resources:
The Language of Conservation (summary)
The Language of Conservation (full results)
The Nature Conservancy
Trust for Public Lands