New Study Examines Americans' Knowledge of the Environment

Jan. 22, 2002
Despite their contention that they particpate in outdoor activities, most Americas admit they don't know enough to rate the health of natural resources like forests and wetlands.

The majority of Americans are outdoors enthusiasts and participate in activities like birdwatching, camping, and hiking. However, the vast majority of Americans say they are not members of nor contribute to organizations that protect and conserve our natural resources. And large percentages of Americans say they don't know enough to rate the health of natural resources like forests, wetlands, and grasslands.

These are some of the results of a major study of environmental attitudes and awareness commissioned by Ducks Unlimited, the world's leader in wetland conservation. Highlights of the study are available online at The study was conducted by Responsive Management, a research firm that specializes in public attitudes toward natural resources and the outdoors.

The study's results indicate strong interest in wildlife and the outdoors, with 76 percent of Americans reporting a medium to high interest in wildlife. More than half of the individuals polled said they had participated in wildlife watching in the past year, and 51 percent said they had visited a state or national park. About one-third of respondents said they went hiking, camping, biking, boating or fishing.

Many Americans consider it important to conserve natural resources like wetlands. For example, 64 percent of respondents said it was very important to protect and conserve wetlands, while 27 percent said it was somewhat important. Nearly half (46 percent) said they believed there were too few wetlands in North America, but 63 percent of the respondents could not name a single non-governmental organization that helps conserve wildlife and natural resources.

Americans are especially concerned about endangered species, and say that this concern would increase their motivation to protect natural resources if they saw a connection between the vanishing resource and threats to wildlife. For example, four out of five of those polled said they would be more likely to support waterfowl and wetlands conservation efforts if they knew that some endangered species are dependent on wetlands.

Similarly, interest in wetland protection grew when respondents saw a connection between wetlands and their ability to reduce water pollution, with 81 percent saying they would be more likely to support waterfowl and wetland conservation efforts if they knew wetlands help reduce pollution by purifying water. About one third of Americans said they did not know enough to gauge the health of natural resources like wetlands and grasslands.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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