On May 10, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman led dozens of anti-federal government protesters driving off-road vehicles (ORVs) past the BLM’s signs prohibiting ORV use into Recapture Canyon. Although there are approximately 4,000 miles of designated routes open to ORV use on public lands in San Juan County (2,820 miles managed by the Monticello BLM and another 1,000 miles managed by the Moab BLM), Commissioner Lyman said he was leading the illegal ORV ride to protest the “jurisdictional creep” of the federal government and the notion that the BLM “arbitrarily shut down a road in San Juan County.”
Far from an arbitrary action, BLM’s 2007 closure of the Recapture trail to motorized vehicles was based on evidence that the illegally constructed ORV trail and subsequent ORV use was causing adverse effects to the prehistoric cultural resources in and near the trail. Please tell the BLM it should maintain the existing closure to protect these resources rather than giving a right-of-way for the illegal trail to San Juan County.
The illegal event in Recapture Canyon is but another result of the misguided “take back federal lands” rhetoric spewed by a small cadre of western elected officials. Commissioner Lyman’s “childish snit fit,” which showed complete disregard for irreplaceable prehistoric cultural resources, is a perfect example of why state and local officials should not be entrusted with our public lands legacy.
Commission Lyman’s statements to the media that “[i]t feels great” after riding into the closed area illustrate a complete disrespect for both federal law and the Native Americans who continue to honor the cultural values of the canyon today. The commissioner’s actions in defiance of the BLM’s ORV Closure Order and in violation of laws enacted to protect our cultural heritage must not go unpunished.
Most importantly, the BLM must continue to protect the archaeological resources of Recapture Canyon and not cave to political pressure to give San Juan County a right-of-way for the illegally constructed route. Click here to send a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze asking him to deny the county’s right-of-way request for the illegal ORV trails in Recapture Canyon.