MN Poll Supports Open Space Protection

Dakota County, MN, 3/19/02 – A Dakota County voter opinion survey released today shows that voters would support a $20 million bond measure over 10 years aimed at protecting natural areas and farmland. The poll results were presented to the Dakota County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday by the Trust for Public Land (TPL).

The poll indicates a majority of likely voters would approve using $20 million in bond funds generated over ten years to purchase lands to protect air and water quality, wildlife habitat, parks and farmland. Bond funds could be used to finance the County’s recently adopted Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan.

The American Viewpoint, an independent, Washington-based professional polling firm, conducted the scientific poll of 400 registered voters for TPL. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. Key findings of the poll include:

  • When informed of the positive benefits of this measure, as well as some negative arguments against the measure, a strong majority of 63 percent would vote for the measure, with 32 percent opposed.
  • Dakota County voters are very concerned about growth and development. A large percentage (41 percent) feels Dakota County is growing too fast and better than one in every three feel strongly about this (32 percent). 75 percent of Dakota County voters are concerned that over development will bring the same traffic congestion and growth problems that other nearby areas are experiencing.
  • Concern for growth issues in Dakota County is greater than other typical top tier local concerns. 26 percent of voters felt that growth issues, including controlling growth and development, protecting natural areas and farmland, and traffic and transportation problems are the most important issues facing Dakota County today, compared to only 19 percent who responded that holding down taxes was the most important issue.
  • Adding components to the measure that increase accountability, particularly an annual public audit of how the funds are spent, could also improve the measure’s chances for success.
  • A potential County property tax increase as a result of the possible state budget shortfall and competing local School District tax measures that may also be on the ballot in November 2002 could negatively impact the natural areas and farmland preservation program.

“This polls tell us that voters in Dakota County understand that protecting open space and natural areas plays a very important role in preserving their quality of life. Voters want to do more to protect the lands they care about, and they’re willing to pay for it,” said TPL Minnesota State Director Susan Schmidt. A $20 million bond measure would cost homeowners an additional 93 cents per $100,000 of home value per month. Funders of the poll include the Trust for Public Land, Friends of the Mississippi River, 1000 Friends of Minnesota, the American Farmland Trust, the Minnesota League of Conservation Voters, SKB Environmental Rosemount Community Trust, Stop Our Airport Relocation, Pheasants Forever, Great Swamp Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Trout Unlimited-Twin Cities Chapter, and individual private donors.

This poll is reflective of a national trend as voters continued to support new endeavors to create public funding for open space protection-despite the country’s unprecedented national security challenges and an economy in recession.

In 2000, a typically slow “off-year” following a Presidential election, 196 ballot measures-in 190 different communities and 24 states-were placed before voters. Of these, 137 measures were passed-a 70 percent national rate of approval-generating approximately $1.7 billion in new public funding for parks and open space.

From big cities to small towns, sprawling suburban counties to mountain gateway communities, a total of more than 1.6 million Americans cast votes to safeguard their drinking water, save working farms, create parkland, and protect plant and wildlife habitat.

The results will be discussed at a public meeting on Monday, March 25, 2002 from 7:00 – 8:30 at the Dakota County Extension and Conservation Center at 4100 220th St. West, Farmington. The Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan will also be discussed at the meeting hosted by the Friends of the Mississippi River. All interested citizens are encouraged to attend.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. In Minnesota, TPL has helped communities protect regional open space treasures including Quarry Park Scientific Natural Area in Stearns County, Grays Bay Public Access on Lake Minnetonka, and significant lands throughout the Northwoods. TPL previously assisted Dakota County in protecting sections of Lake Byllesby Regional Park and Miesville Ravine Regional Park.