Garfield County commissioner compares environmental group to al-Qaida, calls them ‘scum of the planet’

Facing criticism for his use of inflammatory language, such as labeling environmental organizations as terrorists, Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock remains steadfast in his stance. The controversial rhetoric was on full display during a meeting in Tropic on Oct. 26, where county officials, residents, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, and Redge Johnson, executive director of the state Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, gathered to discuss and mobilize opposition against the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed draft management plan for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

During the meeting, Pollock directed his ire at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and other environmentalist groups, accusing them of harassing ranchers and undermining their way of life. He and others expressed concerns that the proposed plan, a result of the Biden administration’s reversal of former President Donald Trump’s reductions to the monument’s size, could devastate the grazing industry, bankrupt ranchers and farmers, close roads, restrict ATV use, and ban target shooting.

Specifically targeting SUWA, Pollock referred to the group as the “scum of the planet” and likened them to a “terror cell.” He did not shy away from using extremist language, further asserting that these organizations are effectively running the federal government.

The commissioner’s remarks did not sit well with some residents and environmentalists, who raised concerns about the potential impact of such language in a volatile political climate. David Hensel, a county resident, called out Pollock’s incendiary rhetoric, warning of the dangers associated with labeling individuals or groups as terrorists.

Supporters of Pollock, including Attorney General Reyes, rallied behind him, praising his determination and representing him as a forceful advocate for the county. However, environmentalists and some locals remain critical of his harsh language and expressed disappointment with the lack of pushback from state officials.

The ongoing conflict over land use has sparked fierce debate, with environmentalists emphasizing the need for preservation, while ranchers and their allies argue for the importance of maintaining their way of life. The contentious issue has led to legal battles, with parties on both sides seeking to uphold their respective interests.

The proposed BLM draft management plan offers four alternatives, each with varying degrees of restrictions and provisions. Alternative C, the preferred alternative, includes measures such as dividing the Grand Staircase into different management areas, with differing levels of access and development.

The discord regarding the proposed plan highlights the complex and deeply entrenched differences between conservationists and those with economic interests tied to the land. As the debate rages on, it remains to be seen how the various stakeholders will navigate the complex terrain of land use and conservation in Garfield County.

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