The BLM’s deception to silence Phil Lyman

Last March Utah’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Juan Palma received praises for his work in Utah when he retired.

After five years overseeing nearly 40 percent of Utah’s land, Juan Palma retires Friday as the state director for the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM's deception to silence Phil Lyman
Utah BLM Director Juan Palma

While many state and local leaders would rather evict the federal agency from Utah, they don’t feel the same way about Palma.

An easygoing leader who was able to navigate the fraught politics of public lands management in Utah, Palma is respected by environmentalists and oil and gas developers alike. by SLT March 6, 2015

Other state media sources also patted Mr. Palma on the back and called him a problem solver.   Despite all this praise there was another side of Director Palma that only a few people ever saw. Unfortunately, for San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and four other men they would witness firsthand how manipulating and malicious Palma and his staff could be.

Prior to May 2014,  Lyman had continually tried to hold Palma accountable for broken BLM promises and stacks of misinformation that Palma and the BLM had been inundating the county with for years on many issues.

When the citizens in a town hall meeting in Blanding decided to have an ATV protest ride in Recapture Canyon this did not sit well with Palma.  It appears that Palma and his staff put together a plan that would get Lyman off their back, as well as use him as an example to other commissioners not to question the actions of the BLM.   The plan was outlined in an email from Jenna Whitlock Associate State Director of the Utah BLM to US Attorney John Huber, Palma, BLM Regional Manager Lance Porter and several others.

The plan appears to have 5 simple steps:

  1. Ignore every effort from County Commissioner Lyman to resolve the Recapture issue prior to the protest
  2. Produce a letter of warning very close to the date of the protest that tells Lyman that he will be charged with a crime if he holds the protest in Recapture Canyon. Also that he will be responsible for any damage that may take place to archaeological sites during the protest.
  3. Make the above warning letter highly publicized in order to demonize Lyman and his constituents as being out of control and whose actions were illegal, destructive, and damaging to sacred ruins and burials.
  4. Manipulate Lyman into thinking it is okay for him to hold his protest in the canyon so that the plan can be carried out. Then publicly deny ever giving him permission.
  5. Then after the protest charge him and a few of his supporters from San Juan County with a federal crime

On April  28, 2014  just 13 days before the protest BLM Manager Lance Porter presented Lyman with the following warning letter stating it was just between Lyman and himself outlining what will happen if Lyman goes through with the protest in Recapture Canyon.  (Step 2 completed)

Recapture BLM Letter

After the meeting with Lance Porter, Lyman returned to his office and found that he had a message from an environmental group asking him to comment about the letter he had just received.  Obviously the letter was not just between Lyman and Porter it had been made highly publicized when it was leaked out to environmental groups and the media. (Step 3 completed)

In a response to Porter’s letter, Lyman stated that he had no intention of breaking the law and he outlined everything he had tried to do in order to resolve this issue with the BLM to no avail. The BLM had ignored all of Lyman’s efforts, suggestions, and willingness to work with them on the Recapture Canyon issue.  This is outlined in the following letter. (Step 1 completed)

Response to Lance Porter April 29

Then on May 1, 2014, Lyman and Palma had a phone conversation where Palma promised that if Lyman did what he said he was going to do (referring to staying on the county pipeline road in Recapture and not driving on the actual ATV trail) no one would be arrested. Palma specifically told Lyman to have his celebration and that it would be okay for the protest to ride or walked into the canyon.

Palma later denied ever saying or giving Lyman permission, and he became very frustrated in court when confronted with the recording of the phone conversation.  Palma identified himself in the recording and stated it was a conversation he had with Lyman. Despite this, Judge Shelby refused to allow the jury to hear the recording or to allow the defense to put it into evidence stating it was untimely.  (Step 4 completed)

Here is the recording of the phone conversation that took place on May 1, 2015

The protest was held on May 10, 2014 on county road D05314 just like Lyman and Palma had discussed.  The protest stayed on the county road and there were no problems.

Road in Recapture Canyon 1979

“It is sad that irreplaceable treasures of importance to all Americans would be sacrificed on the altar of anti-government fervor,” Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance said in a statement. “It is worse that protesters would be so blinded to their own insensitivity as to what others consider to be sacred treasures of their past.”

“This opportunity for healing, to help these men and women has been postponed due to the threats of illegal activities by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on behalf of those who desire to drive their ATV toys over the sacred ruins of others,” wrote Grayeyes in a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Even Palma added his own comments as if to solidify the deception.

Juan Palma, Utah director of the BLM, said agents noted the illegal activity on the closed ATV trail and the agency will pursue applicable charges.

“We know from the archaeological record left behind in Recapture Canyon that the area was previously occupied for at least 2,000 years,” Palma said in a statement. “Illegal ATV use within Recapture Canyon may have damaged many of these archaeological resources — all of which hold the history and tell the story of the first farmers in the Four Corners region.”

Then in September of 2014 the US Attorney John Huber filled charges on five San Juan County residents including Lyman.  These were the only people charged out of the 200 hundred plus people who rode down the county road that day.  (Step 5 completed)

This is not just another conspiracy theory with no proof.  As I stated above these facts were formulated as evidenced in the following email from Jenna Whitlock  Associate State Director of the Utah BLM. She sent this email to Huber, Palma, Porter and several others.

The email is dated April 25, 2014 just 6 days prior to the phone conversation on May 1, 2014 when the  Palma gave Lyman permission to ride or walk into the canyon.  Then on May 9, 2014 Palma a prepared statement to the media but never said a word about giving Lyman permission to be in the canyon just 8 days earlier.

These documents indicate that Palma’s deception was clearly intentional and the key to setting the stage to charge Lyman and four others with a federal crime.

BLM emails and OP Orders setting up Commissioner Lyman by The Petroglyph

This should raise all kinds of red flags to even those on the other side of the issue.

You may not agree with the protest or Lyman, but I’m sure you would agree that it is inexcusable for the federal government to lie and entrap it citizens and violate their civil rights?   This should never be tolerated on any side of an issue because if it is allowed everyone is in danger of this same thing happening to them.


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