About a month after the widely reported standoff between Bureau of Land Management officers and armed protesters at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., the federal agency is facing another group of challengers in Blanding, Utah.
As Western Journalism reported last week, this demonstration was organized by Phil Lyman, a San Juan County commissioner opposed to the BLM’s prohibition of motor vehicles in nearby Recapture Canyon.
The BLM reportedly banned such off-roading in 2007, ostensibly out of concern for the preservation of artifacts buried in the area. Since then, however, the agency has been unresponsive to numerous requests that it reconsider its decision.
That disagreement came to a head over the weekend when dozens of protesters – many of whom were previously camped out near the Bundy Ranch – converged on the town to show support for Lyman and others who want to see the canyon’s trails reopened.
Following a rally those on both sides of the debate described as peaceful, a few of the protesters decided to defy the prohibition by riding their off-road vehicles through the canyon. BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma explained his agency’s stance on the demonstration.
Regrettably, after a peaceful rally in Blanding, Utah, a number of individuals broke the law by driving ATVs through Recapture Canyon where ancient artifacts and dwellings may have been damaged by the riders.
As always, our first and most important priority is the safety of the public and our employees, and our actions today reflect that. The BLM’s law enforcement presence today focused on recording and documenting individuals who chose to violate the law by traveling into the closure area on ATVs.
He confirmed the matter remains under investigation, noting the BLM “will pursue all available redress through the legal system” to make sure the ATV enthusiasts face what the agency considers justice.
For his part, Lyman expressed gratitude for those who made the journey to support the local cause. He even thanked those who expressed opposition for their part in the rally.
Though fewer militia members remain in Nevada to support targeted rancher Cliven Bundy, his wife, Carol, confirmed that many have simply taken the fight to Utah. Reports indicate the elder Bundy’s son, Ryan, was part of the weekend rally near Recapture Canyon.
Photo Credit: combusean (Creative Commons)