About 200 protesters drove ATVs down a road closed to motorized vehicles on BLM land near Blanding, Utah Saturday. The protest was yet another sign of the tension between many western residents and the federal government.
The 12-mile road in Recapture Canyon has been closed to motorized vehicles since 2007, but remains open to hikers and horseback riders. Although the closure is supposed to be “temporary,” local residents feel the BLM has not worked with them to reopen the canyon to ATVs, USA Today reports.
The road runs through a canyon containing Pueblo Indian ruins, sites, and artifacts. It was closed after BLM officials found an illegal ATV trail cut through the ruins and feared further damage to the Pueblo sites.
“It’s not even about so much whether there should be motorized traffic in the canyon or not. The question is should the BLM be able to do that unilaterally without consulting the county,” said Phil Lyman, protest organizer and San Juan county commissioner, in a TV interview.
Federal agents were present but did not try to stop the protesters. BLM officials said in a statement that their rangers were “focused on recording and documenting individuals who chose to violate the law by traveling into the closure area on ATVs. The BLM will pursue all available redress through the legal system to hold the lawbreakers accountable.”