Ed Roberson, the new state director of the BLM, announced the process to the San Juan County Commission on February 7.
Roberson said that the agency has a recommendation for a decision. It should be announced in the next week or two, after new political leadership in the agencies are briefed on the issue.
The new director was met with a skeptical audience of Commissioners. Commissioner Phil Lyman told Roberson, “I have no confidence in the BLM. I am confident in an Administration that will rein in the BLM.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams added, “There are some very important issues regarding the BLM in San Juan County. …how you treat those issues will tell us a lot about who you are.”
Commissioner Rebecca Benally told the new state director that the Bears Ears National Monument has been an oppressive action against Native Americans in San Juan County.
“Native Americans were promised co-management of the monument, but it did not happen,” said Benally. “It is just consultation, not co-management.”
Regarding Recapture Canyon, motorized transportation through the canyon was outlawed in 2007 in a “temporary closure” that has extended for nearly ten years.
The closure was ordered after a trail was discovered in the canyon that environmental groups claimed was unauthorized.
A group of local residents were working on a trail system through the canyon and apparently created a trail through an area the BLM says was roadless.
Two Blanding residents were fined more than $30,000 for the unauthorized road construction.
Since that time, San Juan County made several attempts to resolve the situation, with a variety of proposals.
For a number of reasons, the closure has remained in effect much longer than initially anticipated. The issue culminated in 2014, when a group of protesters drove through the northern portion of the canyon.
Commissioner Lyman and Monticello resident Monte Wells were convicted of organizing the ride, in which approximately 50 vehicles drove through closed portions of the canyon.
Lyman and Wells were sentenced to several days in federal prison and fined nearly $100,000 for damages caused by the ride. The convictions are currently under appeal before the US District Court.