About the time Cliven Bundy and his supporters were making the BLM fold and sneak way, southern Utah malcontents were staging an illegal ATV ride through a closed-to-motor-vehicles trail in southern Utah. The place was Recapture Canyon on May 10. Off-road vehicle interests were irritated about the closure of the archeologically rich canyon and other southern Utah trails and area closures too, although conservation groups said the closures had been all too few.

The BLM warned the protesters that legal action would likely be taken if they held their “protest” ride, although on  that actual day, rider’s names were merely noted and apparently written down.

This week, however, charges were finally filed against five of the protestors. All had been judged to be leaders, organizers of the event. Phil Lyman, a San Juan county commissioner, is the most prominent defendant. His name seems to have been the most frequently used and mentioned in the media when plans for the ride were being made

Charges are riding in a closed area and also, significantly, conspiracy. All told the punishment could be in principle, severe, but hardly anyone is predicting much real punishment at all, assuming they are convicted. Conservation groups are asking why the charges took so long to come and wonder why more items were not added to the complaints?

A likely defense will be that it was a first amendment protest, but the idea behind civil disobedience is that those who break a law or rule, no matter how bad the law might be, take their punishment.  Then, hopefully, public opinion will be sympathetic to those who broke the unjust law and provoke change.

The Salt Lake Tribune and others are comparing the matter to that of Tim DeChristopher’s illegal oil and gas lease protest bid back in 2008. DeChristopher paid for his protest with hard time in prison and was not even allowed to raise the rationale behind his action in Utah federal court.

The Salt Lake Tribune just posted an editorial comparing the two.


About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

8 Responses to Utah Canyon Country ATV scoflaws finally charged

  1. Nancy says:

    Although it applies to law breakers across the “pond” with the exception of #17 thru 20 (and 20 now is acceptable in many states here) it mirrors law breakers in the US:

    “But these so-called minor crimes are committed so regularly, they have almost become legal, which seems to be the reason so many people aren’t fazed when they do break the law.”


  2. IDhiker says:

    The government should know that the more you ignore lawbreakers, the more they will continue to break the law. The Bundy fiasco will haunt the government for years if they let it drop.

    • Elk375 says:


      Read the “Orange is the New Black” by Piper Kerman. She thought that her miscreant’s deeds were long forgotten. Five years later the FBI knock on her door and six years later she reported to prison. Mr. Bundy is not forgotten.

      • Rich says:


        Cliven Bundy has only been breaking the law for close to 20 years so I’m sure the Feds will get right to it.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        Yes, it should be obvious that I won’t forget!

      • IDhiker says:

        Elk, I sure hope you are right. But it would be nice to get that “knock on the door” sooner rather than later. Bundy may die first! I will get the book you recommended.

    • Nancy says:

      “Threat to public safety? » The situation has become so tense, or perhaps juvenile, that federal and local officers sometimes threaten to arrest each other”

      “Juvenile” being the operative word here 🙂


September 2014


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey