Recapture Canyon Field Trip

Recapture Creek is in a spectacular canyon with an astounding prehistory, as evidenced by the number and quality of its cultural resources.  In 2006, unknown individuals illegally constructed an off-road vehicle (ORV) route through Recapture. The illegal route was built directly through archaeological sites and crosses the creek several times.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) eventually issued a temporary closure for the illegal route in 2007, and has started a criminal investigation that is still ongoing.

Subsequent to BLM’s closure, San Juan County requested a right-of-way (ROW) for the illegal ORV route. Even though the BLM is still conducting its criminal investigation, the agency began processing the County’s ROW application. Due to the area’s archeological significance, and in order to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act, BLM has begun a consultation process with interested parties. SUWA is an interested party because we petitioned the BLM to close the route, and we are participating in the consultation process, along with the State Historic Preservation Office, professional
archaeologists, other environmental and cultural resource protection organizations, the Ute Tribe, a local ORV advocacy group, the cities of Blanding and Monticello, and San Juan County. In addition, the Hopi Tribe has submitted letters to the BLM requesting the permanent closure of the unauthorized route in Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles due to the cultural resources issues.

There is sound basis for closing the route to motorized vehicle use to protect the cultural resources, as current research indicates that there is a direct correlation between the vandalizing and looting of cultural resources and access by ORVs. Sites visible from ORV routes are much more likely to be vandalized.

Besides the NHPA process which the field trip in this video was part of, BLM has indicated that it will conduct an environmental review and publish an Environmental Assessment for public review and comment before determining whether the agency will grant a ROW for the illegal route to San Juan County.

Video by Brooke Williams, SUWA Field Advocate