BLANDING, Utah – The federal government says it plans to prosecute everyone who illegally rode an ATV on federally protected lands in southeastern Utah over the weekend. Juan Palma with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says his agency will “pursue all available redress through the legal system to hold the lawbreakers accountable.”
Motorized vehicles have been banned in the area, which contains ancient Native American cultural assets, since 2007.
State Sen. Jim Dabakis says the BLM took the right approach by avoiding any escalation with the alleged law-breakers.
“I’m grateful there was no violence, and apparently there were not a lot of guns displayed, the way that there was in Nevada. So, I guess that’s something to be grateful for,” Dabakis says.
The ride held Saturday, which was reported to include dozens of people on ATVs, was organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman as part of an ongoing protest over federal government control of public lands in Utah. Some Utah politicians want to see all federally controlled public lands turned over to the state.
Dabakis says Utah lawmakers may have a better chance of gaining more control of public lands if they would end “radical” acts and try to negotiate with the Obama Administration.
“The way to get this done is not to have a bunch of people with guns, and trampling federal law, and desecrating ancient ruins. It is to roll up our sleeves as sensible Utahns, talking in Washington, D.C., with [the Department of the] Interior,” Dabakis says.
Media reports have likened the Utah lands dispute to Cliven Bundy’s case. He is the Nevada rancher who has refused to pay federal cattle-grazing fees for two decades. The Nevada situation led to armed supporters defending Bundy when the BLM tried to cover the rancher’s debt to the government by rounding up some of his cattle.