Lyman: ‘Envirophiliacs’ smear San Juan County locals with fake news about Recapture Canyon

Recapture Canyon is not closed to motorized use. It sits next to San Juan County’s largest town of Blanding, the population of which is more than 50 percent Native American. The road there is not illegal (I never organized an ‘illegal’ ride). Everything the Trib and Brian Maffly have asserted in the article about Recapture Canyon is a lie.

Editorial by Phil Lyman

What is it that makes newspapers like the Salt Lake Tribune publish complete and utter misinformation under the banner of “news?” Their partisan bias should repel readers and advertisers alike. Yet there they are, week after week, with ever more lurid stories. It is a type of liberal pornography that requires greater and greater sensationalism. I think, instead of allowing people like Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s (SUWA) Steve Bloch, or the Trib’s Brian Maffly to call themselves environmentalists, we should instead use the term “envirophiliac,” because theirs is an abnormal exploitation of the environment rather than a genuine appreciation for, or interest in, protecting special places. Their brand of news is not about informing but about propping up an ideology. Their love is not real love but a perverted indulgence.

Last week, the Trib published an article by Brian Maffly entitled, “BLM considers offering Utah’s Recapture Canyon — rich in American Indian artifacts — for oil and gas leasing.”  It starts out, “Recapture Canyon is so rich in fragile Native American prehistory that it is closed to motorized use, yet the Bureau of Land Management is now proposing to lease the canyon east of Blanding for oil and gas development.” This is a false statement, which becomes the premise of the rest of the article.

Believe what you want, but Recapture is the most-traveled, most-used canyon in San Juan County. It is not closed to motorized traffic. It has three State Highways, and at least five county roads that run through it. It is home to Recapture Reservoir which is used year-round by motorists, boaters, ATVs, etc. To say that Recapture Canyon is closed to motorized use is like saying Salt Lake’s City Creek Canyon is closed to motorized use because you can’t drive your car through Macy’s.

Recapture Canyon is not closed to motorized use. It sits next to San Juan County’s largest town of Blanding, the population of which is more than 50 percent Native American. The road there is not illegal (I never organized an ‘illegal’ ride). Everything the Trib and Brian Maffly have asserted in the article about Recapture Canyon is a lie.

Agenda-driven envirophiliacs who want to lock up the entire western two thirds of San Juan County with a monument, naturally want to hold the remainder hostage as well. They set up their strategy by telling outlandish false tales of looting and grave robbing. It is absurd, but their readers eat it up and can’t wait to see what provocative slander is in the next issue. There is a special place reserved in Hell for liars who defame honest people in order to pad their own pockets. Additionally, the road in Recapture Wash was not illegally constructed in 2005. It is amazing how many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees take their cues from the Trib and parrot this kind of rubbish, even to the point of calling for prosecution of people who they know have not broken any laws.

Josh Ewing, the executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa, can tell you that the road in Recapture is not illegal. To his credit, in January, 2015, he wroteRegardless of personal opinion towards Mormons, Government, Native Americans, land use, ATVs, or any other entity of this article, the historical facts are substantial that the trail in the bottom of Recapture Canyon has existed for over a century of time. In result, the existence of the trail, its usages, and the protest of May 10 that took place on it, were legal.  Josh can also attest to the fact that extraction industries are legally bound by existing laws to steer clear of archaeological sites. Any extraction activity is curtailed by the presence of cultural resources. Mitigation is done where mitigation makes sense, and projects are completely stopped where mitigation is not possible.

The Trib’s constant drumbeat that the road in Recapture was illegally constructed, and that our 2014 rally was illegal, is false; it is all such garbage! 

The Editor of the Salt Lake Trib, Jennifer Napier Pearce–who happens to be the wife of John Pearce, who was himself appointed as a Utah Supreme Court Judge in January 2016–says she is “comfortable” with the Trib’s reporting. Whether her appointment in June of 2016 was to help the Trib gain favor with the Courts or vice versa, any normal and honest citizen can see the conflict of interest between the courts and the media. The fact that they back each other up is not surprising in the least.

Having been given the rare privilege of having a front row seat in my own federal criminal prosecution and having received thousands of documents through the legal discovery process, I can tell you unequivocally that there exists a mountain of evidence pointing to collusion between the media, the BLM, the US Attorney’s office, and environmentalist special interest groups.

This is not news to the people in Blanding. We saw firsthand the tactics used by the BLM in fabricating crimes. We tried to get authorities to see what was really happening. Now that the infamous Special Agent Dan Love has been dismissed from the BLM for “lack of candor,” and for his theft of artifacts–which he stole from law-abiding people and gave to his fellow BLM Law Enforcement Officers as mementos of their involvement in Operation Cerberus (the ‘antiquities’ sting that defamed and destroyed the lives of innocent people); now that Mr. Love has been exposed as the ‘gun slinger’ that the residents of San Juan County said he was more than 9 years ago, people are starting to see that our warnings about ethical breakdowns in the BLM are true.

I am certain that the BLM will respond as if they are the victims; like they are only taking action to protect sacred relics. But they have made themselves enemies of the people and lands they’re supposed to protect! BLM agents are the ones killing cattle, making false reports, and creating a genuinely dangerous atmosphere. Their actions in response to the Recapture protest prove that they are more interested in promoting a lie than in protecting the truth.

Dan Love is a thug. Envirophiliac and anti-grazing activist, Rose Chilcoat, the self-proclaimed founder of Friends of Cedar Mesa–who has been charged with felonies for attempting to harm cattle in San Juan County–is a manipulator and a calculating criminal. Somehow San Juan County has attracted the worst of the worst. We have been kind and we have been accepting, but it is time to recognize that the Axis of Envirophiliacs; the Brian Maffly’s, the Rose Chilcoat’s, the Lance Porter’s, the Steve Bloch’s, and the Robert Shelby’s of the world, resent us not because we who live in San Juan County are unkind, but because they are unkind. If we allow their lies and venomous narratives to continue, we have only ourselves to blame.


San Juan has always been an open and caring county and we have welcomed people from across the globe. The fiction that the locals here are looters and gun-toting law breakers is toxic, and is being appropriated to us by those belonging to the Axis of Envirophiliacs mentioned above. Do not validate that lie. It’s time to take back control of our economies as well as our stories. Those who have lied about us and continue to smear our community’s reputation will never allow San Juan County to be seen for what it truly is, a kind and gentle place of stark beauty, both its landscape and its people. No matter how much money global outdoor recreation corporations, such as Patagonia, and their industrial tourism machine spend, they will never own the truth.

Now, back to Maffly’s disinformation about the oil property that is being proposed for lease: These leases are in addition to the extraction already taking place in Recapture Canyon (not illegal, not remote, not disrespectful). Any new leases are heavily regulated and no cultural resources are in danger. The Axis of Envirophiliacs and the Trib are simply trying to get out in front of what would otherwise be a logical and intelligent consideration resulting in some oil and gas leases moving forward and others being removed from consideration. They care nothing for the environment; they are obsessed purely with propping up their politically-driven agenda, even if it means spreading fake news and defaming anyone who offers a different point of view. 

Phil Lyman is a county commissioner from San Juan County, Utah. 

Free Range Report


About the author


  1. Phil, thank you for staying on top of this mess. I think that the newspapers should be held accountable for their “fake” news and every other misrepresentation of our county. I don’t know how they get away with printing lies. Our county is so lucky to have you and the other commissioners in our corner, don’t even want to imagine what our country would be like without you guys. Keep up the good work, and if you need anything to help this go alone, let me know.

  2. Thank you Phil for a wonderful article about envirophiliacs. Perfect word for people who love destroying our economies and people’s lives. I can’t help but think of our political prisoners who are being held in Pahrump, Nevada and the retrial that started again yesterday, July 10, 2017. Thank you for mentioning big recreation corporations that are involved in this insanity we call sustainable development.

Comments are closed.