Four-wheeler covers his tracks |

Four-wheeler covers his tracks

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION ” A Grand Junction man has raked and reseeded a popular trail area where he caused nearly $2,000 in damage by driving across the public land.

Burt Skinner, 27, was in his Jeep on March 13, trying to follow his girlfriend, Tara Shawn, who had taken off for a walk across the BLM land, they said Tuesday. The public land is behind Skinner’s home at 138 Mira Monte Road ” an area on the Lunch Loop near the Tabeguache Trail.

Skinner believes a neighbor saw him driving off and reported him to authorities. He was on an area closed to motorized traffic, said Mel Lloyd of the BLM.

“Someone from the public saw him in the act and reported it. We need more of that,” Lloyd said. “With 1.2 million acres, there’s no possible way we can have BLM staff everywhere.”

In U.S. District Court in Grand Junction, Skinner was sentenced to 40 hours of community service. He raked and reseeded the area, repairing damage done by others in the process.

“It took me 20 hours to take care of all the tracks I put up there,” Skinner said. “I cleaned up other tracks that wasn’t even mine.”

When Skinner drove across the landscape, there was no sign posting the area as closed to motorized use, he said.

The Bangs Canyon Area 1, known as the Lunch Loop, used to be a great place to four-wheel drive, he added. Though Skinner won’t return there in his Jeep, he vowed to continue four-wheeling in the desert.

But the BLM intends to hold users responsible for their actions when they recreate on public lands, according to Ken Straley, recreation program manager for the agency.

“There is no tolerance for total disregard of the laws implemented to protect public lands that belong to all Americans,” he said.

Nonetheless, the agency has to catch violators first. On that front, the BLM can use the public’s help.

“We have people damaging public lands all the time, people dumping trash, and they get away with it,” Lloyd said. “That happens all the time. We depend on the public to take pictures and get vital information to us so we have a hope of catching people.”