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BLM, ATV protesters claim their actions are justified under Constitution

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Posted at 9:57 PM, May 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-13 00:08:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Bureau of Land Management has been treating Recapture Canyon like a crime scene following an ATV protest Saturday that went right through a closed trail.

“We did do an assessment of the cultural resources in the area prior to the event and we will be going over and taking assessment now to see if there is damage by conducting the fact that we had a number of ATVs in there,” said Megan Crandall with the BLM.

BLM closed the 14-mile stretch of trail to motor vehicles in 2007 in order to protect 2,000-year-old artifacts, including Native American burial sites. The riders and the county have been fighting it ever since -- they say the trail belongs to the people.

“They did not need to cross into that closure area with ATV`s to have their point heard,” Crandall said. “We have absolutely been working with the county over a long period to address re-routs and address the issue as a whole.”

Some riders are tired of waiting for a resolution, which is why they took the law into their own hands.

“Ideally, these types of situations should be sorted out through negotiations between the parties,” said Bob Keiter, a Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Utah.

Keiter said both parties can lean on the Constitution for justification, but in this case BLM wins out.

"Yes, the BLM appears to be operating within its constitutional authority and its statutory authority in this case,” Keiter said.

However, Keiter said, in most cases the riders would have a legitimate case.

“They are correct it is public land and public land is usually open to people for recreation unless the land manager, in this case the Bureau of Land Management has decided to close or limit access.”

No legal action was taken against the ATV riders on Saturday. However, the BLM said they had plain-clothed officers at the canyon documenting who broke the law.

The BLM said those people will be held accountable. According to the law, that could mean anything from a $1,000 fine to a year in prison.