"A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles."
- Edward Abbey, "Desert Solitaire"
Somehow, it's not all that difficult to picture a Hollywood film director the likes of John Ford or Howard Hawks standing on the mesa overlooking Recapture Creek outside of Blanding, Utah shouting "Action!" through a megaphone or bullhorn after cuing the cameras to roll and the ATV drivers to puff out their collective chests as they drive through a cloud of dust toward their own imagined manifest destinies.
That's how these anti-BLM sorts see themselves -- as John Wayne types taking back the land they legally stole from the local Native Americans tribes (on screen, usually Navajos dressed in full-on Cherokee or Apache regalia). Only this time their enemy is the evil Bureau of Land Management who designated Recapture Canyon as off-limits to motorized vehicles.
In the true spirit of former San Juan County Commissioner Cal Black, who thought that pillaging Ancestral Puebloan sites with a backhoe was a constitutional right, current San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman contends that operating motorized transportation along the archeologically rich Recapture Creek area is also a right guaranteed by the founding fathers.
Well, obviously there's no need for the ATV mindset to worry about possible repercussions from the enforcement arm of the BLM. They're far too busy making sure that true enemies of the state, like current Harvard Divinity School student Tim DeChristopher, will think twice before disrupting another legal land-grab near Arches National Park by the drill-baby-drill set.
One would think that if DeChristopher got two years in federal prison for raising an auction bidding paddle, that these motorized-vehicle trespassers would be looking at something similar. Not to be, of course. Out west, the collective moral compass appears to be on the fritz.
I think it would make more sense, however, for the administration to go after their bank accounts and other assets like they're trying to do with that crazy Ruski Vladimir Putin. Like Putin, these ATVers are just looking for a confrontation so they can feel better about themselves. If you can deny them a shoot-out by utilizing a "statue-of-liberty" end-around play, so much the better.
Last Saturday, as advertised, these latter-day "Sagebrush Rebels" took off in a cloud of dust aboard a convoy of ATVs with, not unlike Cliven Bundy's Bunkerville, Nevada bunch, their women, children and flags out front.
Although there is absolutely no evidence to support the charge, I would like to think they all were wearing some sort of "Benghazi" T-shirt to ward off any "leftish" vibes left over by hikers (ugh!) that might have passed through. Why would they want to hike when they could drive a loud, smoky, smelly mechanized contraption through red-rock country? Cuz they don't know their constitutional rights, that's why!
If only we still had Edward Abbey around to write about all the current insurgencies coming from the knuckle-dragging side of the aisle. As Ed once commented: "One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork."
The many "Bubba-glyphs" (bullet holes) that already dot the rock formations in Recapture Canyon is testament to the reverence with which these sacred lands are held by the local powers-that-be in southeastern Utah. Not that this mindset speaks to the reticence most wilderness advocates hold about turning over public lands to state or local jurisdictions for safekeeping, or anything.
As one who truly believes that it was ignorance above all else that delayed his conversion to "wilderness advocate," I must also assume that those on the other side of this debate are only one epiphany shy of acquiring "gorp" in bulk shipments. One must never lose hope.
Although I certainly concur with the BLM's decision to forgo confrontation on this issue, I feel that, somewhere down the road, there needs be a reckoning -- with interest.
Am I afraid that the introduction of these heat-packing posses into the process might lead to unnecessary carnage? Most assuredly! They, obviously, aren't in the business of bending another's will through discourse. These are photo-ops with Western mythology at stake.
I can offer only one bit of advice to all concerned: Both figuratively and literally, take a hike!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.