Signs found in Recapture Canyon, Utah, where Durango’s Great Old Broads working

By Dale Rodebaugh Durango Herald Staff Writer

Two members of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a Durango-based conservation group, recently found their organization was mentioned on Old West-style “wanted” posters in Utah.

Poster found attached to signs at the trail head to Recapture Wash and on road signs in San Juan County, Utah, in December 2010.

A printed poster carrying a threat to Great Old Broads for Wilderness was taped to a Bureau of Land Management sign announcing travel restrictions in Recapture Canyon near Blanding, Utah.

The apparent reason: their involvement in trying to restore an area rich in archaeological treasures that has been invaded by off-road vehicles.

Under a skull and crossbones are the words: “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Beneath, in larger type, it reads: “Members of Great Old Broads for Wilderness are not allowed in San Juan County Utah.”

“We’ve run into hostility before but never so overtly,” Ronni Egan, executive director of the group, said Friday.

“It was very disconcerting. I don’t leave my car unattended in Blanding,” Associate Director Rose Chilcoat said.

Egan and Chilcoat were speaking about a half-dozen letter-size posters taped to road signs in Blanding and on a Bureau of Land Management sign in Recapture Canyon, the ATV-ravaged area a couple of miles outside town.

The notices say they were posted by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the BLM office in Monticello. But both entities have denied being the authors, Egan said.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness has chapters in all 50 states. The organization has 6,000 names in its database and 4,500 members who contribute financially, Egan said.

Its goal is to use the voice and activism of elders to protect wilderness and wild lands.

In Utah, they have been involved in restoration after a 4-foot-wide trail was illegally constructed in the bottom of narrow Recapture Canyon. A cattle guard installed in a fence allows ATVers to avoid having to open and close a gate at another point to gain access to the canyon.

A plank bridge and a number of culverts were installed, and fill-dirt was hauled to some areas to create a seven-mile trail on the bottom of the canyon. Three trails cut from the rim to the floor of the canyon.

It is believed that the trail was constructed in 2005, Egan said. After prodding about damage to Native American artifacts by residents and Great Old Broads, the BLM closed Recapture Canyon to motorized travel in 2007.

Since then, the BLM has started processing under the National Environmental Protection Act an application by San Juan County for an ATV trail in Recapture Canyon.

The agency also has invoked the Archaeological Resources Protection Act to convene a task force to study how to repair an estimated $300,000 damage in the canyon and reroute the trail.

Task force members include representatives from the BLM, San Juan County, the Governor’s Public Land Office, the towns of Monticello and Blanding, 10 Native American tribes, the Utah Professional Archaeological Council, the San Juan Public Entry and Access Rights group, residents and Great Old Broads.

The group has been working for a year, and there is no end in sight, Egan said.

The posters haven’t lessened her and Chilcoat’s enthusiasm for the project, Egan said. In fact, it’s redoubled their resolve, she said.

daler@durango herald.com

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