Environmental activist Rose Chilcoat has filed a lawsuit against San Juan County, Utah for violating her civil rights. The lawsuit describes falsified charges of trespassing on Utah state trust lands (managed by SITLA) and “attempted wanton destruction of livestock,” apparently as vindictive retaliation for Chilcoat’s environmental activism and political views.
It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing tale that involves anti-federalist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Phil Lyman, the former San Juan County commissioner and convicted lawbreaker who currently represents District 74 in the Utah Legislature.
In 2007, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed an illegal off-road vehicle trail in Recapture Canyon near Blanding, Utah. The trail, which damaged a freshwater stream and cut through archeological sites, was reported by the activist group Great Old Broads for Wilderness (GOB) based in Durango, Colorado (Chilcoat was associate director of GOB and a founder of Friends of Cedar Mesa). The County requested for BLM to make the road official, which would have encouraged future off-road vandalism. When the request was turned down, Recapture Canyon became a cause for anti-federalist militias who called the closure “government overreach.”
In 2014, followers of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy gathered in Blanding. Lyman was goaded by an angry crowd into leading a caravan of off-road vehicles into Recapture Canyon. Although Lyman stopped at the end of a legal road, the group rode further.
In 2015 Lyman was convicted of criminal conspiracy and ordered to pay $95,955 in restitution for damage caused by the ride.
Lyman has publicly blamed Chilcoat for his conviction. Chilcoat’s lawsuit concludes, “It is a reasonable inference that he [San Juan County Attorney Kendall G. Laws] took the challenged actions in retaliation for Ms. Chilcoat’s political and environmental advocacy, including Ms. Chilcoat’s support for criminal charges against a friend of Laws, former County Commissioner Phillip Lyman.”
Lyman has been paying his debt at a rate of $100/month, but recently a U.S. attorney has sought to raise his monthly payment to $500 due to a “heightened moral obligation” from his role in state government.
In response, Lyman fired off a 12-page rant accusing two U.S. attorneys of harassment and politically motivated malice.
It seems that harassing Chilcoat to stifle environmental activism is exactly what Lyman objects to when he thinks it is happening to himself.
Meanwhile, in April a federal judge threw out Cliven Bundy’s lawsuit claiming that federal public lands within the boundaries of Nevada belong to the state of Nevada, calling his arguments “simply delusional.”
Great Old Broads for Wilderness: GreatOldBroads.org (there are Utah Broadband chapters in St. George, Moab and the Greater Wasatch). Friends of Cedar Mesa: FriendsOfCedarMesa.org