by Monte Wells

We have all seen the announcement from the Department of Interior about Recapture Canyon and the ATV trails located on the rim of the canyon being open to motorized use.

“MONTICELLO, Utah — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced expanded recreation opportunities for motorized and non-motorized trails in the Recapture Canyon area located in San Juan County, Utah. The travel management plan includes nearly 7 miles of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and/or traditional vehicle access to this area while protecting important archaeological sites and natural resources.”  https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases

Some even say this is a big win for the people in San Juan County. It just makes everyone think the new leadership in Washington, DC really cares. It makes a person feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Along with the press release, they put out an official BLM map showing all the great changes and all the work they have done for the people. The problem is it is all total BS. Some elaborate PR smoke screen to draw people’s attention away from the really important issues.

Newly opened tail map

The problem is that none of the trails shown on the map were part of the Recapture emergency closure in 2007. As a matter of fact, these roads and trails have never been closed. So what did the citizens of San Juan County get out of this so-called good news? Not one thing we didn’t already have.

Map of closure

The 2007 closure area was only located in Recapture canyon. It was never on the rim of the canyon. The closure started just after what the BLM calls the “Canyon Bottom Trail head” on their new map and traveled south down Recapture. Everything north was open and everything out of the canyon on the canyon’s west rim was open. The BLM “Travel Restriction Area” map above clearly shows all this.

Most of what the BLM is showing as trails that have been opened are really current county roads, old water ditch, and other roads that cover the entire area.

The following map is an example of the roads in the area.

The above map shows part of the newly designated trails so let’s take a closer look at segments 5, 6, 7, 8, and 4, on the newly released map. Let’s see what these segments really are new trails or just old county roads and old existing trails?

  • segment 5 is county road D5312
  • segment 4 is county road D3796
  • segment 1 has been open and never closed. The gate has an ATV fence crossing bridge on it to allow ATV access without opening the locked gate. It has been in place at least two years.
  • segment 6 is outside the closed area and has been part of the trail used to access the Blanding Bulldog ATV trail as is segment 1.
  • segment 3 runs along the west rim and has never been closed
  • Pacheco Trail … I have no idea where they came up with that name but it is on private property and then runs into the old city water ditch and other county roads

The fact is none of this was closed in 2007 and was never closed.

The rim trails were originally approved by the Monticello BLM manager back in 2006 or 2007. When they were approved I believe SPEAR the local road and trail access group went out and signed the trails for the BLM with BLM signs. They put in ATV fence crossing bridges etc. It was only later that a new manager questioned if the proper process had been followed in approving the trails. Despite this there was never any closure signs put up to stop the use of these trails at that time or any time since. The rim trails have remained in use from then to the present.

Even the Great Old Broads confirm that the trails on the rim were never an issue and therefore were never closed.

Veronica Egan was the director of the GOBs before retiring. Ross Chilcoat who is facing criminal charges in San Juan County for messing with livestock took over for Egan when she retired.

The sad thing is that it appears that some BLM officials or someone else intentionally lied to our newly appointed Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about this area being closed. Secretary Ryan Zinke wouldn’t know any better because he hasn’t taken the time to come to San Juan County and see firsthand what is going on. Neither he nor his staff has even taken the time to talk to any of the citizens of San Juan County that have been dealing with this for years about the lands issues or Recapture. I’m not even sure they talked with Commissioner Phil Lyman who knows more about Recapture than any other politician in San Juan County or the State of Utah.

No, this is just a PR smokescreen.