Poll: Californians Support Budget Surplus Investments in Nature-Based Climate Solutions, Equitable Access to Parks

A new statewide poll shows three out of four (76 percent) California voters say that now is the time to prepare the state for a hotter, dryer future by investing in parks, land, and water conservation to combat wildfire, drought, and to pull the state out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Lawmakers looking for indications of where Californians’ priorities are on public investments should look to the outdoors, in our parks and green spaces,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, California State Director with The Trust for Public Land. “California voters believe our future health and prosperity depend on investing wisely in our parks, land and water, to protect drinking water, address our drought, and prevent catastrophic wildfire,” added Rodriguez.

The Trust for Public Land commissioned FM3, a trusted and respected polling firm, to conduct a voter opinion poll on how the Governor and Legislature should invest the unprecedented budget surplus. Lawmakers are grappling to divide a multi-billion budget surplus, counting both state revenues and federal pandemic support. Budget proposals from the Governor and the Legislature include billions of dollars to fund wildfire prevention and mitigation, watershed protection, among other climate and conservation priorities, as well as funding for parks and outdoor access programs.

Specifically, the poll asked voters if they would support putting $10 billion toward “wildfire, drought, land conservation, protecting water quality and wildlife habitat and reduce pollution.” Some 76 percent of voters (broad majorities across lines of party, ethnicity and geography) said they would support such spending, with more than half saying they would strongly support it.

Other highlights of the poll include:

  • Top priorities for spending include protecting drinking water, public health, open space and wildlife habitat; preventing fire; drought preparation; and promoting better agricultural practices.
  • When it comes to climate impacts, 62 percent of voters predict great or moderate harm from climate change personally. Respondents cited drought, wildfire and habitat loss as key concerns; extreme heat was also mentioned by a majority of those polled.
  • Voters approve of the state’s work to slow and respond to climate change; at the same time, 47 percent think the state is doing too little. 63 percent think the state is not doing enough on wildfire prevention.

Voters of color are more concerned about poor air quality from wildfires than are white voters (74 percent vs 58 percent).

“Californians from all walks of life agree that conserving our state’s natural areas and protecting and restoring our streams and rivers is good policy. It’s also excellent politics,” said Rodriguez. “From preventing forest fires to droughts to providing places for our kids to play outdoors, voters understand that our future prosperity and way of life depends on protecting nature. We are fortunate to have this moment in history to secure a better future for California. Let’s not blow this chance.”

In particular, the poll showed strong support for parks and outdoor spaces, which have become critical places for exercise and fresh air for Californians during the pandemic. Specifically:

  • 50 percent of Californians say they’re planning to visit parks and open spaces more often.
  • 68 percent of voters support a statewide goal of a 10-minute walk to parks.

Californians’ support for land conservation, in particular for parks and equitable access to natural spaces, comes into greater relevance given The Trust for Public Land’s release of its 10th annual ParkScore index, which ranks the 100 largest U.S. cities based on their local parks system. For the first time in its history, this year’s index includes park equity as a factor in its rankings. In California, only one city, San Francisco, has achieved 100 percent of residents who have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from home. Many cities, like Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Frenso, stand below the national average for park access.

To accompany the ParkScore index, The Trust for Public Land released a groundbreaking new report, Parks and an Equitable Recovery, that reveals significant inequities in park space and distribution. Across the 100 most populous U.S. cities, residents of neighborhoods where most people identify as Black, Hispanic and Latinx, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian American and Pacific Islander have access to an average of 44 percent less park space per capita than residents of neighborhoods that are predominantly white. Residents of low-income neighborhoods have access to 42 percent less park space than residents of high-income neighborhoods. The findings are an indication of the urgent need for more parks and outdoor recreation opportunities.

“We’re encouraged by the governor’s addition of $125 million for parks, but given the $2.4 billion being requested in Proposition 68 funding, we know that the need for parks in California far outweighs what’s proposed in the budget,” said Tori Kjer, executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. “The Legislature’s ask of $400 million would go much further in meeting the needs of park-poor neighborhoods, while providing important economic and workforce benefits to local communities.”

California lawmakers are considering a variety of conservation projects, including efforts to conserve the 400-acre Banning Ranch in Orange County. As a public park, Banning Ranch would provide outdoor recreation opportunities to more than 8 million people who live within an hour’s drive. The parcel, one of the last privately owned properties along the Southern California coast, provides habitat for imperiled wildlife along the mouth of the Santa Ana River. The Trust for Public Land and other conservation groups have secured roughly half of the money necessary to protect the land from development, a project that would bring multiple benefits from carbon sequestration, habitat restoration, wildlife protection, and park equity.

The poll was conducted by the Oakland-based FM3 Research in mid-May. Interviewers reached 900 randomly selected individuals, for a confidence rating of 95 percent, or plus-or-minus 4 points.

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About the Trust for Public Land  

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.