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Feds want trail riding operation near Zion National Park to stop until it gets permit

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Oct. 30, 2019 at 4:29 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management says a horseback riding business is operating unlawfully on federal land near Zion National Park because it does not have a special recreation permit — and the agency wants them to stop.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Utah this month, the government alleges Zion Canyon Trail Rides at Jacob’s Ranch is trespassing on federal lands due to the company’s unauthorized commercial use of the land.

Jackson Ruggles, owner of the business based in Virgin, Washington County, said the allegations are false.

“We are going to deny all of that,” he said Wednesday. “We are not a guided trail ride business.”

Ruggles added the business is licensed with the city as a horse rental and operates under a conditional use permit. It does not do “guided” trail rides, he added.

We are not a guided trail ride business.

–Jackson Ruggles

But the BLM said Ruggles and the general manager named in the complaint were told to stop their commercial use of the land since 2014 until they obtained a special recreation permit, which costs the greater of $105 or 3% of adjusted gross receipt, according to the complaint.

The permit, the agency added, is required for any recreational use of federal land for business or financial gain.

In the complaint, the BLM asserted clients pay $200 per day and are accompanied on horseback rides by “wranglers” and often end up at “North Camp,” which is a small butte on the west side of Kolob Terrace Road, a popular, primitive camping area managed entirely by the federal agency.

In 2018, and again in 2019, the BLM said its employees approached wranglers during the rides and asked to see the special recreation permit, but nothing was produced, the complaint said.

The BLM wants the federal court to declare the defendants are trespassing and seeks a permanent injunction against Ruggles and his general manager from conducting any commercial activities on federal lands until it obtains the necessary permit..

Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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