Hispanic voters in the Rocky Mountain states continue to exercise an important influence on local politics, particularly regarding the protection of the environment on the regional and community level, according to a poll released Thursday by Colorado College.

Eleven years ago, as part of its State of the Rockies Project, the college began surveying attitudes toward the environment in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The 2014 edition of the Conservation in the West Poll is based on telephone interviews in English and Spanish carried out last month with 2,400 registered voters, 14 percent of them Latinos.

Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates conducted the study.

Among Hispanics, 83 percent said that the budget should not be cut for federal agencies tasked with protecting the environment, such as the U.S. Forest Service of the Bureau of Land Management.

In addition, 64 percent of Latino voters said they prefer to vote for candidates who explicitly support the activities of those federal agencies.

Together, the six Rocky Mountain states are home to almost 4.5 million Hispanics.

Latinos represent the key subgroup in deciding elections in this region, which has the highest index of negative feelings toward candidates who do not promote environmental protection.

The survey revealed that 44 percent of Latino voters said they were "strongly against" such candidates.

"Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It's natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation," Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, said during the presentation of the results.

"With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we're going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we've never seen before," she said. EFE