HOUSTON — While oil spill cleanup efforts continued in Galveston Bay, a poll released Tuesday shows a majority of Texans tie protection of the coast to a healthy economy statewide.
The America’s Wetlands Foundation survey found 95 percent of those polled agreed that stewardship of the Texas coast should be a high state priority. Some 77 percent were concerned about the loss of coastal habitat.
“There is great concern that the protection of the ecosystem and the coast is tied directly to the progress of the Texas economy and jobs,” said Val Marmillion, managing director of the foundation. “I think that’s a really strong finding of this survey and should speak well about potential assets needed to shore up the coast of Texas.”
Marmillion, one of the speakers at the State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in Houston, dug into poll results with an eye to the crisis in Galveston Bay.
“The issue of stewardship of the coast is very high among both Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
“The need to worry about protection of the barrier islands, which would include Galveston, and the back bays and estuaries is rated extremely high, in the 80 percentiles,” Marmillion said after addressing summit participants. “These issues, when you pull them apart — even the legacy issues of preserving hunting and fishing and being stewards of the natural recreational resources — all rate extremely high.”
The survey comes as environmental groups stand watch around Galveston Bay to monitor damage caused by Saturday’s oil spill. An estimated 168,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil were dumped when a barge collided with a ship.
If the survey results hold true, inland Texans are keeping their own watch on the threat to coastal habitats. One survey question read, “In Texas, barrier islands, bays, estuaries and wetlands make up wildlife habitat of world ecological significance, providing a vital nursery for valuable fish and shellfish species and a wintering ground for millions of migratory birds. How concerned are you about loss of coastal habitat?” Some 38 percent of respondents were extremely concerned, 39 percent were very concerned and 21 percent were somewhat concerned.
“I think that the take home for the Galveston reader is that you’re living in a vulnerable barrier island condition right now, with the incidence of sea level rise,” Marmillion said. “All voters, for reasons of insurability, for reasons of helping to restore your natural beach line, and to protect your economy of tourism, should be asking the state to pay a greater degree of attention to coastal matters along the entire coast of Texas.
“The poll says the public is poised to be supportive of that.”
Details to note:
• The Kitchens Group of Orlando, Fla. conducted the survey of Texas voters in the first quarter of 2014. It included a survey sample of 489 voters statewide, with over-sample of 200 conducted in the coastal areas. The margin of error for this survey is 4.4 percent. For more information, visit www.americaswetland.com.
• The State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit 2014 continues through Thursday morning. For more information, visit www.sgmsummit.org.