How radical environmentalist groups in Utah conspired with BLM to prosecute two local leaders

April 20, 2016

The role of collusion between the BLM and Utah environmentalist groups in the prosecution of two local leaders

By Marjorie Haun and Monte Wells

“Environmentalist collusion with the federal government can be more accurately described as infiltration of agencies such as the BLM, by environmental extremists.”

When Juan Palma stepped down in March of 2015 from his post as the Director of the Utah Bureau of Land Management, he was lauded as a ‘respected leader.’

After five years overseeing nearly 40 percent of Utah’s land, Juan Palma retires Friday as the state director for the Bureau of Land Management.

An easygoing leader who was able to navigate the fraught politics of public lands management in Utah, Palma is respected by environmentalists and oil and gas developers alike.  Salt Lake Tribune March 6, 2015

Despite praises by Utah’s media of Palma, it appears he was a party in a coordinated effort to discredit and prosecute outspoken critics of the BLM office in Southeastern Utah, which he oversaw.

Critics of the BLM included San Juan County Commissioner, Phil Lyman, and Monticello (located in San Juan County) City Councilman, Monte Wells, who spoke out openly about the federal agency’s prohibitive activities in this remote corner of Utah.

Citizens of San Juan County were increasingly outraged by the BLM’s 2007 ban of motorized vehicles in Recapture Canyon, a historical watershed accessed by locals for a century. So, during a San Juan County Commission meeting in early 2014, Lyman floated the possibility of an ATV protest ride in the canyon if local officials were unable to convince the BLM to reconsider their restrictions. Monte Wells, a friend and supporter of Lyman, and a well-known local blogger, publicized Lyman’s “freedom ride” on Facebook and in his blog, The Petroglyph.

In an ongoing story which splashed across state and national headlines for over a year, the words “Recapture Canyon” became central to a modern West showdown between the federal government and Utah locals.

Emails obtained by Monte Wells, between Director Palma, other BLM agents, and several environmentalist groups, hint at a conspiratorial effort to smear Wells and prosecute Lyman well before a protest ride was ever to take place.


The collusion involved several environmental activists; Liz Thomas (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance–SUWA ), Rose Chilcoat (Great Old Broads for Wilderness), Lori McCullough (Tread Lightly), and Nada Culver (Wilderness Society).

In an email to Steve Boos, Eric Swenson, and Mark Maryboy, representatives and attorneys for  the Navajo Nation, who were suing San Juan County (SJCO), Liz Thomas, SUWA’s Field Attorney, signaled her intent to discredit Monte Wells, months prior to a possible protest ride.

1 Liz Thomas Email

Liz Thomas made herself a de-facto informant for Director Palma and another BLM officer, Lance Porter, feeding them information about op-eds and social media posts by Commissioner Lyman.

G Liz Thomas 4-17

Here, Thomas even goes so far at to dictate to federal officers, Palma and Porter, what actions they should take, including “citations” and a “damage assessment” in the event of a protest.’

See page 7 (below)

Nada Culver served was the Senior Counsel for The Wilderness Society’s (TWS) “BLM Action Center.”

Liz Thomas’ interest in Facebook posts related to the Recapture Canyon ride exceeded that which the NSA has shown in cases of domestic ISIS recruits.

Rose Chilcoat, of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, also played BLM informant and an anti-Bundy Ranch spy, for Porter and other non-BLM environmentalist operatives.


 BLM officer, Lance Porter, colluded with SUWA’s Thomas, Tread Lightly’s Lori McCullough, and other BLM agents in preparation for the planned protest ride.

Nada Culver coordinated with Director Palma to inform him about additional pressure from The Wilderness Society (TWS) regarding the “illegal actions” of Lyman, despite the fact the nothing illegal had taken place.

See pg 17 (above)

BLM Director Palma acknowledged SUWA and TWS as part of the BLM’s “broad coalition in support of Recapture Canyon.”

Before the event would ever occur, collusion between BLM and its various environmentalist supporters seems to have determined the fate of those involved with a Recapture protest ride planned for May of 2014.

Palma’s Lie

Despite every effort by Lyman and citizens of San Juan County to work out a solution with the BLM regarding the restrictions in Recapture Canyon, it appears the decision to prosecute had been made whether or not the ride would actually prove to violate the law or the protesters would cross into the closed area.

On May 1, 2014, Commissioner Lyman recorded a phone conversation during which BLM Director Palma promised that if those participating in the Recapture ride stayed on the well-traveled county road D05314 and avoided the ATV trail in the canyon, that no one would be arrested. Palma specifically told Commissioner Lyman to go ahead with the “freedom ride” and that it would be no problem for protesters to ride or walk into the canyon.

Reneging on his promise, Palma placed several undercover BLM agents among the protesters on the day of the Recapture Canyon ride, who recorded footage of the participants. As Lyman promised, none of the participants left the county road or crossed into the closed areas. Nevertheless, footage taken by undercover BLM agents was used as evidence to file federal charges, including trespassing and conspiracy, against Lyman, Wells, and three other men.

After the ride, the trial

During the subsequent prosecution in which Lyman and others were tried for the Recapture excursion, Director Palma denied ever giving Commissioner Lyman permission to go ahead with the ride, and he became very frustrated in court when confronted with the recording of the phone conversation made by Lyman.

Lyman and Wells were convicted and required to pay restitution for “damages” which purportedly occurred in Recapture Canyon during the protest ride. They were also sentenced to short stints in federal prison and Lyman received three years’ probation.

In an interesting side note, during various stages of the Recapture Canyon trial, four separate judges recused themselves citing entanglements with the BLM and members of the environmentalist groups involved in the coordinated efforts against Lyman, Wells and their associates.

Following his retirement from the BLM, Juan Palma stepped in as Chief Conservation Officer for the Latino environmentalist group, HECHO.

Environmentalist collusion with the federal government goes beyond mere communications between private organizations and taxpayer-funded agencies, and can be more accurately described as infiltration of agencies such as the BLM, by environmental extremists. Today, you cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.

Posted by  4/20/2016


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