Earlier this week, a Facebook Post from the Moab Police Department went viral announcing the arrest of an individual who had been making violent threats against OHV users and businesses. The individual was arrested on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges related to vandalism and drug charges. Law enforcement also confiscated nine firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Here’s the post if you haven’t seen it yet:
He was charged with vandalism for placing thousands of custom stickers around town that advertised violent and threatening messages to owners of UTV rental shops and the tourists who rent the UTVs.
Here are the messages printed on these stickers:
“Renting UTVs, Moab Hates You”
“Dead Tourists don’t rent UTVs” with a picture of an assault rifle
“UTV noise is rape culture”
Last year on May 19, 2022, this same individual, named Christian Wright, wrote a Letter to the Editor for the Moab Sun News proclaiming his opposition to UTV noise.
Key passages of the letter read, “To the ‘Blue Ribbon’ people suing Moab for trying to pass extremely mild and belated UTV noise restrictions […] No possible compromise can exist between your desire to impose industrial pollution onto a community […] You are worse than the cocaine and meth dealers […] If you want to see an entire town of families snap, keep on driving them to their breaking point. If that’s the bed you want to sleep in, keep on making it.”
He wrote his letter in response to a lawsuit filed by Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) and several ATV business owners against Moab City and Grand County for enacting unlawful local ordinances that were designed to put ATV businesses out of business and restrict motorized access to public lands. Most of these ordinances were so offensive that the Utah Legislature enacted laws to curtail the power of Grand County and Moab to enforce them. BRC is still currently litigating a noise ordinance that is in clear violation of state law, after we spent years trying to work with local leaders on a more reasonable compromise that they wouldn’t agree to.
This same individual has been an outspoken supporter of the actions of Grand County—the county that we are challenging in court. County officials have often cited support from the community for their actions, but it is the voices of individuals like Christian Wright that have informed their decisions to weaponize government policy against a group of hardworking business owners who are part of the beating heart of Moab’s thriving tourism industry. This hostile and hateful messaging has been echoed by county officials in county meetings, where OHV users have been called the “worst of the worst” and declared “not welcome in Moab.” Unfortunately this rhetoric from elected leaders of Grand County created an environment for hate, violence, and threats against recreationists and the ATV businesses. Grand County and Moab City officials emboldened individuals like Christian Wright.
Since Mr. Wright published his letter to the editor last year, law enforcement investigators have had to alert some of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit that Mr. Wright had made credible, violent threats against their lives and their businesses.
This is what it looks like to be on the front lines.
This is nothing new for BRC. In one of the first editions of our magazine back in 1987, we published an article about a growing trend of radical environmental activists tying fishing line across dirt-bike trails to maim, injure, or kill dirt bike users of the trail.
It is an unfortunate reality that the deep roots of the anti-access radicals who want to shut down public access to our public lands are nourished by uncompromising radicalism, eco-terrorism, direct action, and violent threats. It is equally unfortunate that elected leaders in Moab have actively allowed a space for violence and hate. These same officials have perpetuated false public narratives that law-abiding tourists and business owners are a menace to society, while Christian Wright’s hateful and violent viewpoint is recognized as a “voice to be heard.”
We couldn’t be more grateful for the work of the brave law enforcement professionals in Grand County who investigated and confronted what was clearly a legitimate violent threat to so many in the community.
We’re fighting every day to Defend Your Ground, and now more than ever, we need you to have our back.
Our legal challenge against these government actions in Moab is still ongoing, and it has been funded by generous contributions to BRC by its members and supporters and by the ATV outfitters who are partners on the case. We are currently in the expensive and crucial discovery portion of the legal action, and the off-season is slow for the businesses of our outfitter partners. Litigation is always stressful – especially when the stakes involve the viability of your livelihood and broad interests of the motorized recreation community. Nevertheless, taking your grievance to a court of law is the civil and appropriate way to resolve conflicts in America. BRC and these business owners shouldn’t have to endure violent threats in addition to the stress and financial costs of litigation. Let’s show these hardworking business owners that we stand with them by ensuring we have the resources to aggressively stand up for what’s right.