Secretary Zinke opens sacred site in Utah to recreational traffic

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Secretary Ryan Zinke, the new leader of the Department of the Interior, announced the reopening of a sacred area in Utah to recreational vehicle traffic.

The decision is a boost to non-Indians who opposed restrictions in Recapture Canyon. In May 2014, with the encouragement and participation of elected officials in San Juan County, they staged an illegal protest ride through the area, which is home to ancestral tribal villages and countless archaeological sites.

"Allowing ATVs and other vehicles in Recapture Canyon will open up opportunities for people to enjoy our public lands while still protecting the cultural and natural resources that make the place special," Zinke said in a press release. "On my first day in office I prioritized public lands access; I'm happy to continue that mission."

But tribes who consider the area sacred have been calling for greater protections. Illegal ATV trails already caused damaged to historic sites and one county official was convicted for his role in the 2014 protest.

The push to protect Recapture Canyon is also part of the larger movement in support of the Bears Ears National Monument. Tribes celebrated when president Barack Obama designated the monument, a decision that was opposed by the same non-Indian interests who participated in the illegal ride.

While the Bureau of Land Management approved ATVs on the trails used during the protest ride, the agency rejected a request to reopen the floor of the canyon. A series of decision documents were released on Monday.

Read More on the Story:
ATV ban lifted in parts of Utah canyon home to 2014 protest (AP 4/10)
BLM rejects Recapture right of way, but OKs motorized trails (The Salt Lake Tribune 4/10)

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