Last weekend, Recapture Canyon, Utah, was the stage for a new confrontation between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and those who would like to see the federal government reduce its holdings of federal land. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman was organizing a protest against the BLM’s actions in Recapture Canyon, and members of various militia groups headed to stand by them in support in case the BLM overreacted like they did in Nevada in April.
The confrontation was most certainly heating up as the protest drew near. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that two people in a pick-up truck confronted a BLM wrangler off Interstate 15. Driving by wearing hoods, the men held up a sign that read, “You need to die,” and one of the men pointed a hand gun at the wrangler. The BLM wranglers were participating in a highly controversial round-up of wild horses and burros. The BLM said they believe the incident was more about the BLM’s recent news status than the round-up program.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldridge decided to intervene to prevent further escalation of the situation in the lead up to last weekend’s protest event. Working closely with the BLM and militia members, Sheriff Eldridge helped avoid a large show of force from the BLM that might have escalated the protest into something resembling the stand-off in Henderson, NV.
The Las Vegas Sun reported Sheriff Eldridge said in a public statement, “San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies will be at the event in Recapture Canyon on Saturday, May 10th. Our deputies will be there to keep the peace and protect the Constitutional rights of everyone involved. We feel this will be a peaceful event and encourage everyone to be respectful to one another and allow individuals to exercise their First Amendment right.”
Sheriff Eldridge joined Breitbart Texas for an exclusive telephone interview to discuss this incident, the issues between the BLM and locals who seek a different use of the land, and his role as a “Constitutional Sheriff.”
Eldridge began by describing the situation he was facing in the Recapture Canyon protest. “Coming off the heels of Bunker Hill, Nevada,” Eldridge explained, “where the Bundy’s had this experience with the BLM, we were very worried this same scenario could play out in San Juan County, Utah. We had a County Commissioner that was planning on going down a closed trail that is on public land managed by the BLM.”
“Obviously,” Eldridge continued, “the BLM was involved and had issued warnings that they would write him a ticket if they were to go down this trail. We figured, with that, there may be some militia members that would show up. Of course we had our own citizens there and we did not want a clash between citizens and the BLM.”
Ryan Payne, a Montana resident who spent several weeks at the Bundy Ranch incident and dealt with the Clark County, NV, sheriff and the BLM at that location told the Las Vegas Sun that dealing with Sheriff Eldridge’s stance was “180 degrees” different.
Breitbart Texas asked Sheriff Eldridge if that is because he believes that part of his role as sheriff is to be a “Constitutional Sheriff” or, in other words, the chief defender of the U.S. Constitution in the county. Eldridge responded, “I do. Of course, I thought every sheriff was a ‘Constitutional Sheriff’. I mean, that’s why we get in the business, to protect the rights of our citizens.” Sheriff Eldridge is in his first term as San Juan County Sheriff and has not yet joined the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
In the full audio interview below, Sheriff Eldridge explains in more detail about the negotiations with the BLM to help ensure the peace and that all citizens’ First Amendment rights were protected, as well as their safety. He also explains the land management issues related to Recapture Canyon and other federally managed lands in Utah.
Breitbart Texas previously reported on BLM issues in Grand County, Utah. Breitbart Texas also reported the issue of the potential land grab by the BLM along the Red River boundary between Texas and Oklahoma.