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San Juan Commissioner May Seek Legal Support from County


San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman says he might look to the county for legal help after he was told to find a new lawyer to fight federal criminal charges over an ATV protest he led last spring.

An accountant and San Juan County Commissioner, Lyman led more than five dozen protesters on ATVs into archeologically rich Recapture Canyon, and now he’s facing conspiracy and trespassing charges.

A federal magistrate judge ruled Tuesday that Lyman does not qualify for the public defenders he’s been working with on the case. Lyman says its possible he’ll ask for the county’s legal help because that’s really where the quarrel originated with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“If the BLM had dealt with this head on, this would be a lawsuit between San Juan County and the BLM,” he says.

Lyman adds that there are bigger issues at stake, like the community’s historic use of Recapture Canyon. He says it’s unfair to portray him as anti-government. He says the county’s tried all along to work with BLM on public lands access.

“I still want to see BLM follow some restraint, some rules,” he says, “and right now they just seem to be less and less inclined to follow even their own rules. That’s why it became a county issue.”

Lyman’s next court date is set for March. He expects delays, though, because he now has to work with a new attorney.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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