The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted to change the name of a remote stretch of road in northern Arizona to honor a former rancher turned spokesman for an anti-government group.
The board made the decision to change Yellowstone Road to LaVoy Finicum road in a 3-2 vote early last week.
Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was an Arizona rancher turned spokesman for the anti-government group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, which occupied an Oregon government building on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge last year.
Finicum was killed after he was involved in an altercation with law enforcement on Jan. 26, 2016.
The two-mile stretch of dirt road now named for Finicum is located in Cane Beds, Arizona, near the Utah-Arizona border.
Only approximately 30 feet of the road is county-owned; the rest is located on private property owned by Finicum’s relatives.
The fact that the road is not currently maintained by the county is what prompted Supervisor Gary Watson, who represents District 1, to vote in favor of the name change, even though he says he understands why many are opposed to it.
“Yellowstone Road is a collector for the school system,” he said. “Because Yellowstone Road is only a 30-foot roadway, Mohave County can’t accept that road for maintenance.”
After Watson met with Finicum’s relatives, he thought the decision to change the name would be good for the community in the long run.
“When Mr. Finicum came in for this request for to change the road name, I indicated to him if it were to be a positive vote on this name change, is there a possibility we get 1.1 miles of right of way so Mohave would be able to take care of that road?" he said. "He indicated yes and that’s why I voted yes.”
The request to change the name was initially denied by the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission because it did not meet county requirements.
Supervisor Buster Johnson, who represents District 3, did not vote in favor of the name change.
“The steps he took were obviously wrong and I don’t want anyone copying those steps,” he said. “And with the state of things now (…) it is not a proper thing to do and I’m afraid it will hurt us in the long run.”
A total of 15 letters from community members with addresses not just from Arizona but from Utah and Florida regarding the name change. Of those, two were opposed, one requested both names be used and the rest were in favor of the change.