BLM: County official's ATV ride would violate the law

Publish Date: 
May 5, 2014

BLANDING, Utah - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put a San Juan County commissioner on notice that an ATV ride he plans to lead May 10 into a southern Utah canyon closed to motorized use would violate federal law, exposing him and his fellow riders to criminal or civil sanctions.

Phil Lyman, a Blanding accountant and Republican, is organizing the ride into Recapture Canyon to champion local jurisdiction over Utah’s public lands. County officials have long sought ATV trails into the canyon just east of Blanding, and the BLM has been weighing a petition for more than seven years.

The agency closed the canyon to motorized use in 2007 to protect its Native American ruins and other archaeological resources after an illegally constructed trail was discovered there. A federal judge later fined the men who cut the trail $35,000.

County officials have been lobbying to have the illegal trail made legal. Environmentalists and historians have opposed opening the artifact-rich area to motorized access. The BLM letter cautioned that riders could face additional penalties if they damage sites protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams told the Salt Lake Tribune he sympathizes with Lyman’s impatience with the federal agency, but the three-member commission declined to endorse the ride because its insurance policy may not cover actions that are deemed illegal.

BLM is willing to join Lyman on a pre-ride tour to identify sensitive sites to avoid — if he affirms in writing that the gesture won’t be construed as consent for the ride. Lyman asked for agency archaeologists to accompany him into the canyon before the ride, to point out sensitive sites and let him document their current condition.

"Many of these exceptional archaeological resources will be damaged by the proposed illegal ATV ride through Recapture Canyon," said state director Juan Palma. “The BLM-Utah has not and will not authorize the proposed ride.”

Posted by Holly Wagner