Five charged for ATV ride in Recapture Canyon

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Prosecutors filed federal charges Wednesday against five men who took part in an illegal ATV ride in a San Juan county canyon May 10th.

Motorized vehicles, including ATVs, were outlawed in Recapture Canyon. The Bureau of Land Management says it's meant to preserve archeological resources but protestors believe they have a constitutional right to use their ATVs on federal public lands.

More than 50 people took part in the ride four months ago but the U.S. Attorney zeroed in on five men they say organized, advertised and spoke at the rally, encouraging illegal activity.

"Obviously the message is if you want to protest a BLM decision you have the ability to do that but you have to do that lawfully," said acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized the event and is among the five defendants, each facing two misdemeanor charges for conspiracy and illegal using off-road vehicles. Lyman and his supporters share Cliven Bundy's view - that the federal government has overstepped its reach on public lands. The day before the ride Lyman told FOX 13 he knew there could be consequences.

"They said don't do it or we'll cite you with criminal and civil penalties," Lyman said on May 9th.

Now, after being charged Thursday, Lyman isn't commenting. Neither are the other defendants and the BLM declined on-camera interviews but director Neil Kornze said in a statement, "Today's actions by the U.S. Attorney's Office underscore the importance of protecting culturally significant areas and holding accountable those who broke the law."

Prosecutors say the illegal ride damaged some archeological resources.

"It's my understanding there weren't any structures damaged but there were other types of archeological artifacts that were," Christensen said.

Prosecutors plan to seek restitution, plus up to 100-thousand dollars in fines and jail time for each defendant, if they're convicted.

Former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman says if the defendants are convicted, fines are more likely than jail time, unless there are aggravating factors such as past criminal behavior. Tolman says the government is sending a message but he doesn't think everyone will sympathize with it.

"(There are) individuals, regular law abiding citizens that don't wanna see these folks prosecuted and on the other side, others may say nobody is above the law," Tolman said.

Prosecutors say plain clothes BLM agents who were on scene May 10 documented and videotaped the illegal activity. That, plus social media posts dating back to February will be part of the evidence in the federal case. All five defendants have been ordered to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City October 17th.


    • bob

      Guilty of what, Comrade? The Constitution is available online. Show me where the Fed is authorized to own that land.

      Or do you believe that the Fed should be able to do as it pleases without regard to the Constitution? I suspect the latter.

    • Gloria

      I’m hoping for a guilty verdict too. Grown men having a tantrum about not being allowed to take their motorized toys into protected federal lands is just pathetic.

  • bob

    It’s State land, and the road belongs to the County. The use of the road by the public predates the illegal creation of the so-called “BLM.”

    The Constitution does not authorize the Federal government to own the physical land of any state. In fact, that’s an important part of what being a “state” means: Federal control of the land is ceded to the new State upon admission to the Union. Special exceptions had to be made in the Constitution for the U.S. Capital and for military bases, and those are strictly limited. If the Fed can simply own the land then why were the exceptions necessary? Furthermore, since the Constitution doesn’t authorize it, it’s specifically forbidden under the 10th Amendment.

    The idea of Federal ownership of public land is a late 19th century invention, which explains why there is so little “BLM land” east of the Mississippi.

  • dave

    i dont know if the ride was what was the best thing to do as part of there protest however if that land is ok-ed for walking then what more damage can be done by a motorized vehicle. they make it sound as tho the trail runs right over grave yards but i just dont think thats the case and if it is than even walking should not be permitted and the trail needs to be re located so it dosnt cause problems.

    i own a small trail motorcycle and there are some trails that are just for horses and walking and i can respect that they dont want motorized vehicles on it to spook the horses. but there are some trails that dont permit motorized vehicles that i cant see a good reason for having the restriction. it makes me wonder if there is a place printed somewhere that says why a spasific trail is marked for use with certain vehicles or animals or is trail marking decisions done with dice

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