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December 18, 2013 (California) -- Voters who live in California's High Desert have a strong connection to public lands and see the benefits they provide for clean water, recreation and wildlife. That's according to a poll that found three-quarters of local residents have visited public lands in the last year.

Pollster Lori Weigel, Public Opinion Strategies, said voters value these lands for a number of reasons.

"As historic and cultural places that they go to visit, as recreation areas they recognize the benefits that are derived from tourism. And, they believe those were really highlighted during the recent government shutdown," she said.

Seventy-six percent of those polled believe the government shutdown hurt many small businesses in the desert when national parks were closed. California's 8th Congressional District includes Death Valley National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and parts of the San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park.

The poll was commissioned by the Vet Voice Foundation. Program Director Mark Starr said they encourage veterans to seek out public lands as a way to heal the wounds of war.

"We feel it's very important our public lands are protected and that federal conservation funding is a vital key to that, and that we need to see more - more of it," Starr said.

Weigel said the poll clearly shows that voters believe there is a moral responsibility to care for the lands and waters of this region and want to leave them as a legacy to future generations.

Poll results are available at www.vetvoicefoundation.org.