State commission supports public aid for protesting county commissioner

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jun 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-16 19:39:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Commission on the Stewardship of Public Lands decided that the federal case against a San Juan County Commissioner is exhibit 'A' in their argument against federal control of public lands in Utah.

"These are fundamental issues that are at the core of the constitution," said State Sen. Scott Jenkins of Weber County, as he voted for a motion supporting Phil Lyman, the San Juan County Commissioner who led a protest ride through Recapture Canyon, an area near Blanding declared off-limits to motorized vehicles because of the presence of sensitive native artifacts.

Lyman was convicted of a federal misdemeanor charge in May and faces a sentencing hearing in July.

The move to give Lyman state support was spearheaded by Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab, who outlined the history of official recognition of the road through Recapture Canyon. Noel considers Lyman's conviction an injustice.

"It will have a chilling effect on other county commissioners, sheriffs, elected officials, legislators to exercise their duty to protect the health safety and welfare of the cities in their jurisdiction," Noel said.

The Commission's two Democrats opposed Noel's move, saying civil disobedience like Lyman's can be admirable, but it always comes with personal risk.

"You want to protest? Fine. Do the time!" said Sen. Jim Dabakis of Salt Lake City.

In the end, the committee voted along party lines to support a motion asking the state's Constitutional Defense Council to consider providing Lyman with financial support.

When asked the potential cost, Noel said it would be "no more than$100,000."