Some people who planned to attend the rally at Blanding's Centennial Park and observe the ride afterward decided to stay away.
"There was a small cadre of folks who know the canyon well and have been actively involved in garnering the limited protection it has with the closure," said Rose Chilcoat, associate director of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. "We did not want to come to be part of the rally but to be a witness, to be a voice for the canyon and the values of the canyon."
She said news that Bundy-associated militia were going to show up led her to cancel their attendance.
"These people are nothing more than domestic terrorists. They are anarchists and are bringing violence to our streets. It is time for the FBI and U.S. marshals to step in. ... One stray bullet could be a tragedy and we just don’t need that."
The 11-mile Recapture Canyon trail was closed to motorized access in 2007 by the BLM. Critics says the closure was arbitrary and unnecessary, thwarting the review process BLM must go through under the National Environmental Policy Act. Groups supporting the closure said the agency had to act swiftly because of the illegal road improvements that were tearing up the canyon and causing irreparable damage to precious Anasazi resources.
“Vehicle damage to vegetation and riparian areas can be repaired over time. Damage to archaeological sites is permanent and the information about our collective past is then lost forever,” said Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, a Utah-based organization that advocates for the protection of archaeological sites on public lands.
Spangler said the Recapture Canyon trail passes through six nationally significant archaeological sites that include residences and storage structures, as well as three religious structures known as kivas.
The canyon, he added, has "tremendous" spiritual significance to Puebloan groups such as Hopi and Zuni and to the Navajo.
"(The ride) is nothing short of a slap in the face to Native Americans who treasure the cultural resources of that canyon as part of their past and present," he said.
Contributing: Richard Piatt
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