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Dude rancher in Grand Canyon dispute with tribe briefly arrested

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A dude rancher in a bitter dispute with a Native American tribe over access to a Grand Canyon tourist attraction was briefly arrested after confronting crews building a road near his property, a tribal spokesman said on Thursday.

Nigel Turner, the British owner of the Grand Canyon Resort dude ranch in Arizona, was taken into custody on suspicion of one count of trespassing by a Hualapai Tribe police officer on Tuesday. He was accused of entering the site despite earlier warnings, said tribal spokesman Dave Cieslak.

The tribe is paving the road on federal land adjacent to Turner's property to provide easy access to its Skywalk project, a glass-bottom viewing platform that juts out over the crimson-hued canyon's West Rim and attracts upwards of 1,000 tourists a day.

Turner is a Nevada businessman and ex-British Army helicopter pilot who a decade ago bought his property which today provides visitors with the experience of living on a Western ranch. He has been in a dispute with the tribe stemming from a four-year easement to his property he granted in 2007.

The fight escalated in May when Turner began charging tourists to enter the road that runs briefly through his property and later blocked access to the road altogether.

Tribal officials then built a new stretch of road that bypasses his property, and were working to complete a bigger project to finish a paved road to the Skywalk.

Cieslak said Turner was warned by security personnel not to enter the site, but did so anyway and began yelling at workers. He was arrested by a tribal officer on scene.

He complained of chest pains while en-route to a local county jail, and was treated and released at the Kingman Regional Medical Center, Cieslak said. He was cited but not taken to jail.

"He was treated with the utmost respect and all statewide police policies and procedures were followed," Cieslak said.

Turner disputes the tribe's account of the incident, saying he was concerned about crews using explosives so close to where his resort guests were staying. He said he asked politely to speak to the construction foreman and was quickly handcuffed.

He said he was then placed in a small space in the back of a car without air-conditioning, and that he asked to be flown to the hospital, but was taken by ground ambulance instead.

"My own cowboys would be arrested for treating animals the way they treated me," Turner told Reuters. "What they did to me violated my civil rights."

There was no immediate decision on whether charges would be filed by the Mohave County Attorney's Office.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)

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