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Public Lands Commission Recommends State Involvment in Phil Lyman Appeal

Judy Fahys
Phil Lyman speaks at a rally near Recapture Canyon in 2014.

The Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands is recommending that the state get involved in San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman’s appeal of his recent conviction in federal court.

In May, a jury in federal court convicted San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman of conspiracy and trespassing for riding his ATV down a closed trail in Recapture Canyon in Southeastern Utah. Lyman was protesting what he deemed an illegal closure of the road by the Bureau of Land Management. But in court, the federal judge would not allow him to argue that point.

Republican State Representative Mike Noel says that decision was wrong and the case represents a perfect example of how the federal government is treading on the rights of the state.

“Is it really a felony and a conspiracy and worth half a million dollars and two years in jail? Or is it normally a fine of $100 to $200 for travelling on a road that, I don’t think is a crime," Noel says. "I absolutely do not think that what he did was a crime.”

For this reason, Noel and the other members of the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands are asking the state’s Constitutional Defense Council to take a look at the case and potentially spend up to $100 thousand to participate in Lyman’s appeal.

Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis was one of two people on the commission to vote against the recommendation. He says pushing the state to get involved in this case sets a dangerous precedent.

“We can be sympathetic and we can say he’s right or the court is bad or isn’t this awful," he says. "What is our alternative? That suddenly as legislators we get involved in every court decision we don’t like and begin making funding available?”

The recommendation has no binding authority with the Constitutional Defense Council, and is just a request. 

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