There is a showdown brewing in Utah over the use of federally owned land. This time it is about access by motor vehicles. While it started as a conflict between the BLM and local government officials, a right wing militia group is attempting to hijack the situation.
This eye-blink of a town in the state’s scenic southeastern corner bills itself as the “Gateway to Adventure.” But this weekend it promises to be more like a launchpad for civil unrest.This is very similar to a long recurring issue of conflict between off road vehicle enthusiasts and environmental concerns. However, this particular instance of it is becoming a cause celebre for a Tea Party type group.
A band of angry citizens plans to ride all-terrain vehicles onto closed-off, federally managed public land Saturday in protest against the federal Bureau of Land Management, which many say has unfairly closed off a prized area, cheating residents of outdoor recreation.
The ride, organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, is a gambit to assert county sovereignty over Recapture Canyon, known for its archaeological ruins, that BLM officials say has been jeopardized from overuse. The canyon was closed to motor vehicles in 2007, the agency said, after two men forged an illegal seven-mile trail. Hikers and those on horseback are still allowed there.
The revolt has received national attention, coming at the heels of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s successful standoff last month against the BLM that suggests a rising battle across the West over states’ rights on federally managed public lands. Tensions rose in Utah this week after two men pointed a gun at a BLM employee on a highway.
Lyman’s protest was planned long before the Bundy incident, but now militia who rallied to help Bundy are expected to converge in this town of 3,500 residents settled a century ago by Mormon missionaries.Since a vast amount of the land in western states is under federal control, these libertarian nuts will not have to worry about running out of incidents on which to stake their protests.
In recent days, many militia members have left camps near the Bundy ranch 80 miles north of Las Vegas to make the nearly 500-mile drive to Blanding.