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ATV Protest Ride: Appeals Court Upholds Convictions

Judy Fahys / KUER
ATV riders ignored warnings in 2014 that the dirt road into Recapture Canyon was closed to vehicles. The ride later led to misdemeanor charges for San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and Monte Wells.An appeals court upheld their conviction Monday.

10/24/17 9:43 a.m. -- There's more information today on this story. See the end of this post.  

A federal appeals court on Monday affirmed the convictions of two men who organized an ATV protest into closed parts of Recapture Canyon.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman says he’s not surprised that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the way it did, rejecting his defense of the 2014 ride down a two-track trail that a federal agency had closed. Lyman and fellow protester, Monte Wells, didn’t get the new trial they say they deserve. And the court didn’t overturn the $96,000 in restitution the two have been ordered to pay.

“My court case was heard, and it was mishandled, and there were negative effects of it,” he says. “But I’ll keep fighting it.”

Lyman acted as his own attorney in the case. He says federal process is “corrupt” and the outcome of his case shows that it needs to be reformed.

That includes the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency that temporarily banned motorized vehicles in the canyon a decade ago to protect its rich archaeology.

“The BLM is just playing games,” he says. “They are the Gestapo arm of this federal government that goes out and hurts people.”

Shelley Silbert, director of the conservation group, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, praises the courts for upholding the laws that protect the canyon’s natural and cultural resources.

“We are pleased that the importance of federal management of public lands has been upheld in this court case,” she says.

Lyman says he’ll request a re-hearing of his case by all of the appeals-court justices instead of just the three who issued this ruling.

More on this story Tuesday: San Juan County is one of 17 counties in the state that filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Commissioner Phil Lyman in the appeals case. Here's a statement by the commission that was issued this morning.

Press Release: San Juan County Commissioners Issue Statement Regarding Commissioner Lyman’s 10th Circuit Appeal Rejection San Juan County, UT – Statement on Commissioner Lyman’s 10th Circuit Appeal Rejection “We express our profound disappointment in the result of the judicial appeal rejection. It seems that the issues Commissioner Lyman tried to bring to light have fallen on deaf ears.

San Juan County requested the BLM grant a title 5 road right of way in Recapture Canyon seven years before the incident in question. Although the BLM was required to answer our request within two years, they ignored it. A failed government bureaucracy with an inability to communicate promptly led to the ATV ride in 2015. This is another example of federal government overreach and unaccountable bureaucracy.”

Appeals Court Affirms Recapture Canyon Convictions by Judy Fahys on Scribd

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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