An ATV protest ride attended by roughly 50 people on federal land in Utah is now being investigated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for possible charges,
the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday
The ride, which aimed to defend local and states' rights against a reportedly out-of-control federal government, was organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who has attempted compromise with the bureau to reopen Recapture Canyon to all-terrain vehicles.
"If you make a rule that I have to lick your boots, I'm just not going to do that," said Lyman, alluding to the feds.
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Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Megan Crandall said the ATVs were banned in 2007 to protect archeological sites, and that the canyon remains open to hikers and horseback riders. She also said a damage assessment will be created to assess the 2,000-year-old dwellings, artifacts, and burials left by Puebloans who mysteriously vanished long ago.
She said that bureau agents watched the protest in plainclothes, recording and documenting who was there in order to bring charges and keep people accountable.
A similar rally staged in 2009 led to a similar investigation but no charges, The Associated Press reported
This protest, however, comes just weeks after Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy made headlines when he and a large group of protestors occupied federal grazing land and clashed with bureau agents. He seemed to have won the standoff when the bureau backed off — promising to level charges later on — but later made comments many interpreted as racist and fell out of favor with supporters. Cliven's son, Aamon Bundy, attended a pre-ride rally at a local park at which roughly 200 people gathered.
BLM agents have long opted for plainclothes over the agency's uniform in Utah, where the federal government owns two-thirds of the state's land, in order to maintain a lower profile.
"Sometimes we need to get out of a place pretty fast," one said, explaining that many agents park with their vehicle noses facing out.
In San Juan County, only 8 percent of the land is not managed by the BLM.
The Utah legislature voted in 2012 that the state be given control of federal land, excluding National Parks, by 2015.
"The federal government has done a pathetic job of reaching out and building local relationships. You can't just show up with guns blazing and expect to win the hearts and minds of the public," U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, whose district includes Recapture Canyon, told the Times.
He said the federal government recently drove an armored tank in a local parade, which angered many.
"People were outraged. The way most see it, they just came in flexing their muscles, showing they had all this armor. The federals need a little more Andy Griffith and a lot less Rambo."
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