The Bureau of Land Management’s Monticello field office is accepting comments on a proposed trail system in and around Recapture Canyon in Utah’s southeast corner. The agency is considering six alternative courses of action ranging from an extensive all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail system both in the canyon and along its western rim to a “no action” alternative that maintains the status quo.
We support Alternative E, which will keep Recapture Canyon and its western rim closed to ATV use while initiating a process to stabilize and protect existing cultural sites within the canyon.
Recapture Canyon, with its year-round stream, is a rare riparian ecosystem rich in cultural resources. According to the BLM, the canyon contains 148 identified cultural sites, including cliff ruins, large rubble mounds, and artifact scatters. As the Hopi Tribe has noted many times, Recapture Canyon should remain closed to ATV use and the existing sites should be stabilized and protected.
The BLM is well aware of how destructive ATVs can be in a place like Recapture Canyon. In 2005, illegal work on a motorized trail resulted in significant damage to cultural resources and the responsible parties were fined $35,000. A few years later, the BLM closed Recapture Canyon to motorized use in order to “protect cultural resources that have been adversely impacted, or are at risk of being adversely impacted, by unauthorized trail construction and OHV use.” In 2014, cultural resources were further damaged when San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized an illegal ATV ride in the canyon. He was convicted of misdemeanor trespass and conspiracy, and spent 10 days in jail as a result.
Now the BLM is poised to approve an ATV trail system within Recapture Canyon and on its western rim, essentially rewarding illegal behavior and permanently establishing motorized access in the canyon.