SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah -- San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman gained a reputation in the national public lands debate when he rode an ATV up Recapture Canyon to protest its closure by the Bureau of Land Management.
The subsequent criminal trial ended with Lyman spending 10 days in jail for his role in the 2014 act of civil disobedience.
Lyman says he stands by his actions then, but he says he has been unfairly portrayed as an enemy of Native Americans in general and of the Navajo Nation, for whom he feels a special affinity.
"The Navajo Nation has my utmost respect, and I would defer to them on matters like this," Lyman told Fox 13 in an interview about the fate of Bears Ears National Monument.
Lyman said he opposes the size of President Barack Obama's original designation, and he doesn't think so much land should be set apart from resource extraction in Representative John Curtis' Monument Bill—but he says that's just an opinion and it's not a county issue.
"These are federal lands and these are federal issues," Lyman said.
Lyman took offense when he learned that Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, read what Lyman said is an inaccurate quote.
Grijalva said of Lyman, "He's on record saying the Native Americans lost the war and therefore have no right to comment on land management decisions."
"I absolutely did not say that, would never say that, and I threatened a defamation lawsuit against the Salt Lake Tribune and they said, 'We didn't say you said that, we said someone else said you said that,'" Lyman told Fox 13.