Support is strong in Oregon for using public lands for wind and solar development -- but only if it's done with conservation in mind, according to a new poll.
The results found almost eight in ten Oregonians (78 percent) favor giving some of the proceeds from energy developers' rents and royalties to counties and states, to use for land management and habitat restoration.
Peter Dykstra, Pacific Northwest regional director with The Wilderness Society, which commissioned the poll, says that is the case with other types of energy development, but not with renewables.
"It does take Congress to change that, and as we've spoken with people in Congress about that, they have been just as surprised as anyone," Dykstra said. "So, we really need to move forward on these bills, to set the framework to bring parity to renewables, as we have with other energy."
Three bills now in Congress (HR 5991, HR 6154, and S 1775) would make the change, and create rules for responsible energy development on public lands.
So far, they're stalled in the pre-election gridlock, although Dykstra says there is support for them on both sides of the aisle. Some local officials also have voiced their support for the legislation, including commissioners or judges in Benton, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Lane, Lincoln, Multnomah and Washington counties.
If money was set aside for conservation, the pollsters also asked how it should be used.
Roughly three in four Oregonians said they'd support restoring habitat (85 percent) and establishing new fishing and hunting areas to replace those affected by energy development (74 percent).
Pollster Christine Matthews says politics didn't seem to play a role in the numbers.
"There's no daylight whatsoever between Democrats, independents and Republicans on creating new fishing and hunting areas to replace those impacted," she said. "Whatever damage is done, they feel strongly that they want that to be corrected; they want it to be fixed."
The poll was conducted in August by two polling firms, one Democratic (Peak Campaigns) and one Republican (Bellwether Research). More information is online at wilderness.org.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this report