San Juan commissioner says May 10 Recapture Canyon ATV ride will go forward
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
May 08, 2014 | 2883 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and a federal archaeologist spent a quiet day this week visiting the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan sites of Recapture Canyon.

But when Lyman returns to the area this weekend, the canyon just north of Blanding could be anything but tranquil.

Lyman and others are planning a Saturday, May 10 all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride up the canyon to protest a 2007 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision that closed an ATV route to motorized traffic.

BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma maintains that the route was illegally developed, and he says the closure was needed to protect the rich archaeological record that Ancestral Puebloans left behind.

But Lyman says the ATV trail has been in use for decades, and he believes the BLM tried to erase that history of use when it closed the trail to motorized vehicles.

“We don’t like it, and we’re not inclined to let it happen,” he said May 7.

The BLM previously fined two men who built a 7-mile long and 4-foot wide trail through the area, maintaining that they damaged Ancestral Puebloan artifacts and ruins.

Palma now fears that the planned ATV ride could further damage many of the canyon’s archaeological resources, and he said in a statement that the BLM is prepared to take action against anyone who violates the closure.

“The BLM-Utah has not and will not authorize the proposed ride and will seek all appropriate civil and criminal penalties against anyone who uses a motorized vehicle within the closed area,” he said.

Lyman, for one, is not concerned about violating the agency’s rules.

“It’s the point of the protest,” he said. “It is civil disobedience.”

San Juan County claims jurisdiction over the roads and trails within its borders, he said, adding that supporters of the planned ride believe the BLM has been heavy-handed in its dealings with Blanding-area residents.

“They don’t talk to the people here. They just come in with their SWAT teams, like they did back in 2009,” he said, referring to a sting operation in which the BLM charged numerous area residents with violations of two federal archaeological laws.

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