Utah Will Still Wade Into Case of Embattled County Commissioner

The legal saga of San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and the state of Utah is not over – although many may have thought so several weeks ago.

While the state will not give Lyman $100,000 to appeal his trespassing conviction at Recapture Canyon, House Republicans were told WednesdayAttorney General Sean Reyes, the Legislature and governor will sue the federal government over what state officials believe was the illegal closing of the Recapture Canyon road by the Bureau of Land Management.

That closure had Lyman and a few supporters driving up Recapture a year ago – an act that resulted in Lyman being charged and convicted of felony trespass in federal court this spring.

Lyman awaits sentencing.

Several weeks ago, in a closed meeting of the Constitutional Defense Council – set up and funded by the Legislature to fight state’s rights issues with the feds – state officials got the Utah Association of Counties to withdraw its request for $100,000 to help Lyman appeal his conviction.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, told an open GOP House caucus Wednesday that it’s been decided Utah state government will sue the federal government over BLM’s closure of Recapture Canyon Road – one of the many Title V/RS2477 roads Utah claims belong to the state or county, but which the BLM or other federal agencies say aren’t really roads, and so can’t be used as such, and are really just federal land in the Beehive State and can be closed to access as federal land managers decide.

It must been stressed, said Hughes, that while the Lyman case and the state’s new federal lawsuit are related by history – the state wouldn’t be suing the feds over Recapture Canyon closure if Lyman hadn’t been arrested in his ATV drive – the court cases will be separate.

Supporters of Lyman set up a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to raise money for Lyman’s appeal.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is giving $10,000 out of his PAC.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is giving $1,000, as are Hughes and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who originally suggested, and championed, the state giving Lyman $100,000 for his conviction appeal.

Noel urged others to donate to Lyman’s appeal Wednesday, as he briefed the caucus on legal and historical issues concerning Recapture Canyon.

As a state policy, said Hughes, “We will challenge access to these roads. And we’ve done that in other lands in the state.

“Obviously these issues are related (Lyman’s conviction and overturning the BLM’s closure of Recapture Canyon),” said Hughes.

“But,” Hughes added, “they will be separate (court battles) going on.”