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John Hollenhorst reporting Rural Utah politicians are beginning to rally to the defense of the Kane County sheriff and a county commissioner They may face criminal prosecution for uprooting dozens of road signs in a National Munoment.
The sheriff and the commissioner say they don't view it as an act of rebellion. They claim they were just following the law. But whether or not they meant to be provocative, their action certainly provoked controversy, and they've been accused of being extremists.
The signs were put in place about three years ago alongside roads like this one, inside the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Sheriff Lamont Smith and County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw removed 31 signs.
The signs are now being held as evidence in a criminal investigation. The Kane County officials were upset because they don't believe federal officials had the right to restrict Motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles.
LAMONT SMITH/KANE COUNTY SHERIFF: "I'M REQUIRED BY STATE LAW, IF ANY BARRICADE, ANY RESTRICTION OF ANY KIND IS ON A COUNTY ROAD, I'M SUPPOSED TO REMOVE IT."
MARK HABBESHAW/KANE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: "USING THE LAW TO PROTECT OUR COUNTY INTERESTS IS NOT EXTREMISM."
But federal officials are investigating whether to file criminal charges. They say the signs were properly authorized and that restrictions on motorcycles and ATV's are necessary in some places to protect resources.
DAVE HUNSAKER/B.L.M. MONUMENT MANAGER: "WE HAVE SOILS ISSUES, WE HAVE WILDLIFE ISSUES, WE HAVE CULTURAL RESOURCS ISSUE, AND IN SOME OF THOSE CASES IT'S CLEAR TO US THAT THEY DO NEED TO BE RESTRICTED."
A southern Utah lawmaker says he thinks officials around the state will line up in support of Kane County.
REP. MIKE NOEL/KANAB: "THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS THE ONE THAT'S OUT OF LINE HERE. IT'S A PATTERN OF ABUSE THAT'S GONE ON HERE FOR THE LAST SEVEN YEARS, EIGHT YEARS, SINCE THE MONUMENT'S CREATED."
Obviously, this latest controversy reflects lingering resentment over President Clinton's designation of the monument.