Dozens of protesters ride in off-limits canyon - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Dozens of protesters ride in off-limits canyon

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Leah Hogsten). In this April 24, 2014 photo, Pueblo III-period cliff dwellings created by the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloan peoples between 1150 and 1300 A.D. in Recapture Canyon near Blanding in Utah. (AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Leah Hogsten). In this April 24, 2014 photo, Pueblo III-period cliff dwellings created by the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloan peoples between 1150 and 1300 A.D. in Recapture Canyon near Blanding in Utah.
Dozens of people rode their ATVs and motorcycles on an off-limits trail in southern Utah on Saturday in a protest against what the group calls the federal government's overreaching control of public lands.

San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said from 40 to 50 people, many of them waving American flags and some carrying weapons, drove about a mile down Recapture Canyon near Blanding and then turned around. Hundreds attended a rally at a nearby park before the protest.

"It was peaceful, and there were no problems whatsoever," the sheriff told The Associated Press.

About 30 deputies and a handful of U.S. Bureau of Land Management law enforcement personnel watched as protesters drove past a closure sign and down the canyon located about 300 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, the protest's organizer, has said it was designed to show that the federal agency isn't the "supreme authority" and local residents have a right to have their opinions heard.

"We're not proponents of breaking the law," Lyman told The Salt Lake Tribune before the ride. "Just because BLM owns the property, that doesn't mean they own the right-of-way that exists."

Recapture Canyon is home to dwellings, artifacts and burials left behind by Ancestral Puebloans as many as 2,000 years ago before they mysteriously vanished.

The riders may have damaged artifacts and dwellings that "tell the story of the first farmers in the Four Corners region" of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma said in a statement.

"The BLM was in Recapture Canyon today collecting evidence and will continue to investigate," Palma said. "The BLM will pursue all available redress through the legal system to hold the lawbreakers accountable."

The group's act of defiance marks the latest illustration of growing tension between angry rural Western residents and the federal government over management of public lands.

The protest occurred nearly a month after Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters, some of them armed militia members, thwarted a BLM roundup of his cattle near Bunkerville, Nevada, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Bundy, a states' rights advocate who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for letting his cattle use government land over the past 20 years.

Some of Bundy's children and militia supporters also took part in the protest in Recapture Canyon.

"This is where it's happening Saturday," Bundy backer Ryan Payne of Montana told the Las Vegas Sun. "This is a continuation of the Bundy affair."

BLM officers recorded and documented protesters who traveled into the closure area, Palma added.

The agency warned riders all week to stay out, vowing prosecution against those who ignore a law put in place in 2007 after an illegal trail was found that cuts through the ancestral ruins. The canyon is open to hikers and horseback riders.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also urged people to uphold the law.

A 14-mile section of trail in the canyon is closed to motorized vehicles, BLM officials said, but there are more than 2,800 miles of trails open to them on public lands around Blanding.

Environmentalists and Native Americans criticized the protest ride, saying the ban is needed to preserve fragile artifacts. Mark Maryboy, a former Navajo Nation Council delegate, called it disappointing that the group had no respect for Native American culture.

"The American tradition of civil disobedience doesn't change the fact that the rule of law needs to mean something," Josh Ewing of the conservation group Friends of Cedar Mesa told The Tribune. "I'll be very disappointed in my government if it doesn't follow through on upholding the law."

Motorized access to Recapture Canyon and other areas in Utah's wilderness has been a source of tension for decades. ATV riders rode another off-limits trail in 2009 in a protest. The Bureau of Land Management gave information about the riders to federal prosecutors, but no charges were filed.

  • U.S. & World NewsMore>>

  • Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

    Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:44 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:44:48 GMT
    Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago.[more]
    Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago.[more]
  • House, Senate advance competing border proposals

    House, Senate advance competing border proposals

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:43 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:43:57 GMT
    Senate Democrats and House Republicans are moving separately to slash President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request for the southern border, but they're unlikely to end up with a deal...[more]
    At an impasse on immigration, House Republicans and Senate Democrats advanced competing proposals Wednesday for dealing with tens of thousands of young migrants showing up at the southern border. Each side quickly ruled...[more]
  • Calls for troops at border echo previous pushes

    Calls for troops at border echo previous pushes

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:26 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:26:59 GMT
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry was speaking to voters in Iowa as much as Texas when he deployed as many as 1,000 armed National Guard troops to the Mexican border in South Texas.[more]
    When Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced the deployment of up to 1,000 armed National Guard troops to the Mexican border he was speaking to voters in Iowa as much as Texas.[more]
  • Stay Connected

  • Like Us on Facebook
  • Follow Us on Twitter
Powered by WorldNow

WHDH TV 7NBC WLVI TV CW56
Sunbeam Television Corp
7 Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114

News Tips: (800) 280-TIPS
Tell Hank: (855) 247-HANK
Corporate Media Services: (800) 642-1551

Can't find something?
Connect with us here:
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WHDH. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.