The May 10 All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) ride into restricted Recapture Canyon is still moving forward, threatening a collision between local residents and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The ATV ride is planned by a group of Blanding residents in an attempt to force the BLM to make a decision on who has jurisdiction within the canyon, which is just east of Blanding. Motorized access to the trail has been in dispute since the BLM forced its closure in 2007.
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who has planned the ride, does not plan to back down to mounting pressure from the BLM.
In an April 28 letter to Lyman, Lance Porter, the manager of the BLM Canyon Country District Office, wrote that “any motorized use within the area is a prohibited act and violators are subject to civil and criminal penalties.”
The letter adds that the “BLM will seek all appropriate civil and criminal penalties.”
The BLM urged Lyman to cancel the ride and avoid the conflict.
At the May 5 meeting of the San Juan County Commission, Lyman said he felt that the emails are a continuation of the BLM’s stall tactics.
Lyman seems not to be deterred by the letter and said he has a “busy week ahead.”
San Juan County has sought for complete jurisdiction of the trail for the past seven years. A Title V right-of-way application has not been approved or rejected by the BLM. In fact, the lack of progress on the application has led to countywide exasperation on the matter.
In the letter to Lyman, Porter said that the application decision has been delayed due to “unusual situations.” He adds that the BLM is “striving to complete the process as soon as possible.”
Porter said that “the proposed ride will very likely hinder and possibly delay our ability to complete this process.”
Lyman said he is especially frustrated about the BLM claim that the Recapture Canyon trail was built recently. “The BLM rulings on the trail are hard to accept when you know it’s been there for so long,” said Lyman.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge and his department are preparing to attend the event to provide crowd control. Eldredge plans to ride along the trail on his horse, along with his deputies.
“We have no idea on the numbers (of protestors),” said Eldredge. “My job is to keep the peace.”
Eldredge asks that ATV riders keep this a “peaceful protest.” Eldredge said he is not worried about the potential of violence at the protest.
The conflict is receiving more and more attention due in part to recent events at the Bundy Ranch near Mesquite, NV. The conflict in Nevada, regarding grazing rights on BLM land, led to hundreds of angry citizens converging on the ranch to take a stand against what they call an intrusive federal government.
Whether the Recapture Canyon ride will receive the same support is not yet clear. Lyman originally planned the event locally, previous to the Bundy Ranch incidents, but has since invited participation from across the U.S.
ATV groups have expressed willingness to invite members to attend the rally, and additional invites via social media have the potential for many non-local protestors to show up.
Because of the potential for a showdown similar to Nevada, media outlets have picked up the story.
Additionally, environmental groups and other supporters of the closure may show up to protest the ATV ride.
The ATV ride is planned for May 10 at 9 a.m.