A new uprising against the federal Bureau of Land Management is brewing in Utah.
On Saturday, dozens of fed-up citizens rode all-terain vehicles onto federally managed land to protest the federal agency’s closure of a piece of land.
According to the Los Angeles Times, protesters in Blanding, Utah contend that the BLM has unfairly asserted federal authority to close off a section of land, robbing them of outdoor recreation opportunities.
However, the BLM has argued the contested land, Recapture Canyon, is home to prized archaeological artifacts — such as dwellings and burials left behind by Ancestral Puebloans thousands of years ago — that had been put into jeopardy by overuse. The area was closed off to motor vehicles in 2007, but hikers and those on horseback are still permitted, according the the Los Angeles Times.
Protesters want the BLM to move more quickly to act on a years-old request for a motor-vehicle friendly passage through the area, according to Fox News.
In a statement, the BLM said Saturday’s protest may have “damaged many of these archeological resources” that “tell the story of the first farmers in the Four Corners region.”
“Regrettably, after a peaceful rally in Blanding, Utah, a number of individuals broke the law by driving ATVs through Recapture Canyon where ancient artifacts and dwellings may have been damaged by the riders,” BLM Utah state director Juan Palma said.
“As always, our first and most important priority is the safety of the public and our employees, and our actions today reflect that,” he added. “The BLM’s law enforcement presence today focused on recording and documenting individuals who chose to violate the law by traveling into the closure area on ATVs.”
According to Fox News, about 30 deputies and a handful of BLM law enforcement personnel observed the protest, organized by San Juan County commissioner Phil Lyman, which came on the heels of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal agency.
On Facebook, Lyman issued a statement following the demonstration, reiterating that it was peaceful and saying he was “proud of those citizens who were willing to take part” in it.
“To those who are reading or hearing fantastic stories about this on the news media, just know that this was a peaceful and productive protest that has helped to highlight a problem that exists both here in this canyon and in many other places through out the west,” he wrote. “Even to my detractors, I say thank you for your voice.”
Palma said that regardless of the peaceful nature of the protest, the BLM will “continue to investigate” the illegal use of motor vehicles in the area.
“The BLM will pursue all available redress through the legal system to hold the lawbreakers accountable,” he said.
[sharequote align=”center”]”…will pursue all available redress through the legal system to hold the lawbreakers accountable.”[/sharequote]
According to the Los Angeles Times, many militia members had left the Bundy ranch in recent days to travel to Blanding.
“There aren’t as many men here as there were a few days ago,” said Bundy’s wife, Carol. “Many of them have gone up to Utah.’
When asked if they would be armed, she told the Los Angeles Times, “They’re militia! Of course they’re carrying their weapons.”
Ryan Bundy, the son of the embattled Nevada rancher, participated in Saturday’s protest.
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