Recapture Canyon Showdown With BLM

Recapture Canyon in Utah is shaping up to be the next big showdown with the Bureau of Land ManagementBLM.The Blanding area nature area is part of an escalating and lengthy dispute between the federal government and a host of local citizens. The angst revolves around the “closed to motorized use” policy instituted along an 11-mile stretch of the canyon.

On Saturday, a protest expected to draw a large number of folks from around the country is scheduled to take place. An ATV ride along the muscle-powered only portion of Recapture Canyon will begin during the early morning hours.

Those opposed to the BLM oversight over millions of acres of public land plan to attend even if they cannot hop onto a 4-wheeler seat and join the ride. The BLM wields power over about 460 million acres of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States of America, including a reported 57.4 percent of all the land in the state of Utah. The battle with the BLM in Utah comes on the heels of the highly publicized fight at the Bundy ranch in Nevada.

Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s wife, had this to say in an email sent in support of the Recapture Canyon protest ride in Utah:

“Please make your way to Blanding Utah this Saturday May 10th 9AM to protest the BLM Closure of Recapture Canyon. Blanding has been the site of many BLM overreach efforts, including the horrific BLM SWAT team raids that resulted in the deaths of three Blanding residents. County Commissioner Phil Lyman has organized a peaceful ATV ride into Recapture Canyon. This Canyon was ‘temporarily’ closed over 7 years ago by the BLM. You do not need an ATV to participate. We need to help the people of Blanding re-establish who is in control of the land.”

San Juan County officials have been arguing with the BLM about Recapture Canyon for more than 10 years. During the past two years, the debate has been focused on the control of right of way channels in the canyon. The ATV and dirt bike trails were ordered closed by the BLM after two men were arrested for making trails complete with stiles, berms, and bridges in the canyon. BLM officials maintain that the infrastructure maneuvered through “archeological sites.”

The two Blanding area men were arrested for causing part of the damage, but public support was heavily on their side. Hundreds of people showed up for a Recapture walk in their support and in an effort to raise money for their fines in 2011. The BLM hosted a meeting with the Utah attorney general’s office, the FBI, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, and the Utah Department of Public Safety to discuss the possible response to the civil disobedience protest planned in Blanding. “It was decided that, at the end of the day, it is not worth it to spill any blood,” Sheriff Eldredge told the Denver Post.

BLM Utah division director Juan Palma appeared a bit more agitated when he released this statement about the ATV ride in Recapture Canyon:

“The BLM Utah has not and will not authorize the proposed ride and will seek all appropriate civil and criminal penalties against anyone who uses a motorized vehicle in the closed area. It is anybody’s guess as to how many ATVs will converge on the town of 3,500 for the Recapture protest and for what may or may not be a showdown.”

Approximately 90 percent of the land in San Juan County has either been designated as public land or belonging to the Navajo Nation. BLM employees in the county have allegedly had ATVs ride across their lawns during the middle of the night and had “windows shot out of their homes. “It is fair to say that the vast majority of people here are frustrated with the federal presence here,” lifelong Blanding area resident Bill Boyle told the San Juan Record. Environmental groups such as the Great Old Broads for Wildreness and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are angry that the BLM approved a proposal to permit “limited” motorized access to the northern side of the canyon.

Some of the environmental groups feel that the BLM has bungled the supervision of the region at times because the federal agency is “understaffed and underfunded.” Navajo Nation Utah Chapter Chairman Willie Grayeyes referred to the canyon as his tribe’s “grocery store” noting that they gather medicinal herbs, roots, and berries in the area as well as hunt and hold ceremonies. “We don’t want it to be disturbed and invaded,” Grayeyes said.

How do you feel about the BLM Recapture Canyon dispute and the amount of land owned by the federal government in the United States?

[Featured Image Via: [Jon Austria: ATV Adventures In Blanding Blog]

[Secondary Image Via: Leah Hogsten: The Salt Lake Tribune]

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