Recapture Canyon Off-Road Vehicle Right-of-Way
The BLM’s Monticello field office is requesting comments on a proposal for a new network of off-road vehicle trails in Recapture Canyon. This proposed route network includes the illegal route that was constructed in Recapture Canyon in 2005.
BLM should maintain the closure in order to protect the resources
After the illegal trail was constructed in 2005, BLM conducted a cultural resource survey along the illegal trail and identified nearly 300 cultural sites in or near the trail. The BLM eventually issued an official Closure Order for this illegal route to protect the cultural resources that were at risk of being damaged by use of the unauthorized trail. Importantly, the BLM’s Closure Order states specifically that off-road vehicle use in the area is causing, or will cause considerable adverse effects to cultural resources.
Recapture Canyon’s stream provides year-round lush habitat for wildlife. This stream is almost certainly the reason that the Ancestral Puebloans began inhabiting Recapture Canyon nearly 2,000 years ago. Remarkable remnants from these agrarian communities, many eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, have been preserved through the centuries in this quiet canyon.
The Hopi Tribe has requested that the BLM continue its closure order due to the sensitive nature of the cultural resources in the canyon. The Salt Lake Tribune has editorialized against rewarding illegal trail construction by approving the right-of way, and emphasized the need to maintain the closure to protect the archaeological treasures.
Yet San Juan County continues to pressure the agency to grant a right-of-way to the county for the illegal off-road vehicle trail and several other new trails on the rim of the canyon.
The Right Thing
There is no shortage of off-road vehicle trails in San Juan County, where enthusiasts can enjoy over 4,000 miles of trails on public lands. The BLM has a duty to protect Recapture Canyon’s stream, wildlife habitat, and the ancient Ancestral Puebloan sites, rather than grant an off-road vehicle right-of way to the county that will put nationally significant resources at risk of damage and destruction. The agency should do the right thing, and deny the county’s right-of-way request.