Commissioners fail to agree on public lands strategy in Recapture Canyon

by David Boyle
San Juan County Commissioners were unable to reach an agreement at the April 28 commission meeting on how to proceed with public land policy related to Recapture Canyon.
Commissioner Phil Lyman, who has called for a May 10 ATV ride to the canyon, proposed that the county withdraw a previous Title V request to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to manage the trail.
Commissioner Bruce Adams was hesitant to agree, suggesting that withdrawing the Title V application would cause the county to lose evidence of the BLM’s lack of cooperation in making a decision concerning the county application.
The county application has been under consideration by the BLM for nearly eight years. With Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy not in attendance at the meeting, Lyman’s motion died without a second.
Jurisdiction over Recapture Canyon has been in dispute since 2007, when it was closed by order of the local BLM manager.
Lyman said he has lost patience after nearly eight years and called for local residents to join him on an ATV ride into the canyon.
Lyman said that the withdrawal of the application, along with the planned ATV ride on May 10, may force the BLM to make a decision regarding whether the trail will be opened to public access.
Adams suggested the county move ahead with the application and pursue legal action to have it approved.
Lyman said attempting to reach a resolution through a federal lawsuit, with a federal judge, against a federal agency, would not work well.
Adams expressed concern that the May 10 ATV ride on the BLM-restricted trail is illegal, and he could not endorse it as a Commissioner.
Lyman said he viewed the trail as under county jurisdiction.
The conflict of ownership could potentially cause issues with the planned May 10 ride. A federal judge ruled last year that BLM law enforcers have jurisdiction on BLM land. Whether BLM officers plan to show up at the ride is not yet clear. The number of protesters is also not known.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said his office plans to attend the event and provide crowd control.
Although Commissioners Adams and Lyman disagreed on how to reclaim the county trail, both agree that eight years with no decision on the county Title V application is frustrating.
Adams said he supports Lyman’s concerns but ultimately felt that keeping the Title V application gives the county needed leverage in the legal battle that may soon follow.
Adams proposed this change to Lyman’s resolution, to which Lyman gave his second. They tabled the matter before voting on it.
In other news from the commission meeting, a Special Needs Registry Contract was approved, giving the county a database of those with special needs, including those with oxygen tanks and other limitations living at home. This free service will allow the county to check up in case of emergencies such as power outages.
Holly Fellmeth is a new assistant librarian in Monticello, and Beth Wilcox is a senior center aide in La Sal.

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