SALT LAKE CITY — San Juan County has sued the federal government for title to the road in Recapture Canyon, the site of an ATV ride nearly four years ago to protest management practices on public lands.
The county argues in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that it is "general community knowledge" that the road was open to the public for travel, transportation, sightseeing, exploration, anthropological and archeological study, picnicking, recreation, mining and motorized vehicle access for many years.
The Bureau of Land Management closed parts of the canyon outside Blanding to off-road vehicles in 2007, citing damage to cultural artifacts in the area. Many locals objected to the closure, asserting it was arbitrary and unnecessary, and bypassed a review process mandated by federal law.Comment on this story
In April, the BLM rejected San Juan County's application for a right of way after more than 10 years of study. The agency decided not to reopen Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles, though it agreed to allowing them on 6.8 miles of trails on its rim. The decision allowed only nonmotorized travel on the canyon bottom and its benches along Recapture Creek.
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized the protest ride in the canyon in May 2014. Lyman was convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy and trespassing and spent 10 days in jail.