ST. GEORGE —A new report found ties between groups and individuals who supported – and in some cases participated in – the Jan. 6 insurrection and those who oppose protecting public lands.
The study by the nonpartisan watchdog group Accountable.US suggests anti-government extremists who want to end public ownership of land and water in Arizona and other Western states have infiltrated the halls of power.
Karl Frish, spokesman for Accountable.US, said many anti-public lands leaders are aligned with violent forces who attempted to overturn the 2020 election.
“Oath Keepers and your Cliven Bundys, various lawmakers have been active opposing public lands,” Frish explained. “In some of those cases, you have people who have endorsed what happened on Jan. 6, and in some of those cases you have people who were involved Jan. 6.”
The report found connections between more than a dozen groups and individuals who endorse violence, including Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who, among others, encouraged aggression at the Jan. 6 rally and in the takeover of public lands. Gosar did not respond to a request for comment.
The report found during former President Donald Trump’s administration, conservative activists pushed for state and local officials to “take back” public lands from the federal government.
“If we’re going to deal with the ‘small-d’ anti-democratic fervor that we saw in the wake of Jan. 6, you’re going to also have to confront issues around the rabid opposition to public lands,” Frish cautioned.
Frish believes it is important for political leaders and conservationists to focus their message to voters that access to public lands and waters must be protected or could be lost permanently.
“I think part of it is making sure that the antidote gets out there around why conservation is important,” Frish asserted. “We need to double down on our efforts to make sure that that message is out there and that land stewardship is not just saying ‘No one is going to have access to this land.’ ”
The report concluded anti-government extremists who want to end public ownership of land and those who seek to overturn legitimate elections are embedded in the halls of power from county commissioners to attorneys general and in Congress.
Written by MARK RICHARDSON, Public News Service.
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