On the EDge: Throw the book at Goblin Valley vandals

Goblin Valley, Utah

OPINION – How much is a goblin worth?

That question seems to be all that stands between criminal charges and David Hall and Glenn Taylor, who toppled an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park last October.

If you poach a trophy buck or elk, the fine is $8,000, plus possible jail time.

If you discharge a pollutant into the air or water supply, there are established fines and penalties.

But, if you purposely push over a centuries-old rock formation in a state park, the law will stand around, scratch its head, and wonder what to do with you.

The excuse being tossed around Emery County is that officials can’t seem to place a value on these incredible rock formations, which are called goblins because of their odd shape. Since Utah vandalism laws are almost entirely centered around property values, even if the state owns the property, such as that trophy deer, elk, or bison, it makes it tough for prosecutors, I guess, to hang a “proper” charge on these guys.

To his credit, Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, promises to introduce a tough bill when the Legislature reconvenes that would result in steep fines and jail time for creeps who think it’s cool to deface nature.

Hopefully, he can make it stick, even though it will come too late to dispense justice on Hall and Taylor.

We all saw the video of the huffing and puffing and pushing that went on to knock this thing of nature from its God-given stand. We saw them jumping, gleeful, as the formation toppled; the high-fives; the Incredible Hulk pose after the rock went over.

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If Pitcher had his way, these guys would be fined $15,000 and face jail time for their disrespect for the land.

The circumstances could easily be adjudged as aggravated, considering that they were Boy Scout leaders who happened to be shepherding a group of Scouts through the park that day. Whatever your feelings about Scouting, this act was, without question, an egregious violation of the Scout principle of “leave no trace.” In fact, after examining the video, the Scouts booted these two from their leadership positions.

Hall and Taylor tried to explain it all away by saying that they were concerned that the rock formation would fall on its own and injure somebody, Hall adding that he had an uncle who was killed by a tumbling boulder.

The thing is, the rock had survived innumerable earthquakes and other natural phenomena, so the argument just doesn’t wash.

Besides, everybody who enters the park receives a pamphlet, which includes the instruction:  “It is unlawful to mutilate or deface any natural or constructed feature or structure. Please help keep our parks beautiful.”

Of course, no penalty is advised.

“We have now modified Goblin Valley. A new Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here at the bottom,” David Hall said on the video – viewed by millions on YouTube –  after his buddy topples the rock. “Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way. So, it’s all about saving lives here in Goblin Valley. Saving lives, that’s what we’re about.”

Excuse me if I don’t rush to pin a medal on these two guys.

I find it incredulous that they would consider themselves expert enough to determine that the rock, which balanced on its spot for eons, was about ready to fall from its perch onto some youngster.

Our parks, our wilderness, our open areas are there for us all to enjoy the splendor in which they were created. Toppling this rock was about as heroic as damming a natural spring or creek, poaching a deer or elk, or scrawling your initials on the ancient petroglyphs that dot our landscape. It would be as scarring as removing stalagmites or stalactites from one of the many caves and caverns open for public exploration in this nation.

Our public lands have been scarred, irreparably damaged by those who have little regard for Nature and its beauty and, in Utah, we have an abysmal history of allowing the further destruction of the land by private interests.

When we go off into the desert or up the mountain to get away from it all, we are searching for something. We go in a quest for beauty, tranquility, a communion with something much more powerful and important than the concrete jungles we are trapped within.

It is our self-imposed timeout from life and its problems, a place to purge, contemplate, recharge.

We share it with those who get it, who understand that these places offer us more than just a place to get away. I mean, if it’s simply getting away, you can go to Anytown, U.S.A. where, of course, you can revel in the requisite mall, chain restaurant, and hustle.

But, I think we all require something more than that, which is why so many of us take to our national parks, state parks, and public lands for our mental, spiritual, and emotional readjustment.

This land was once treated with respect when the indigenous people were all who roamed it. But, of course, they realized that they had to live in balance and harmony with the land because that is what nourished and nurtured them.

Any markings they left behind were for the betterment of those who came to follow. And, I’m pretty sure they didn’t knock boulders off their bases just for fun.

“Goblin Valley State Park,” according to the state’s website, “is a showcase of geologic history with exposed cliffs that reveal parallel layers of rock bared by erosion. Because of the uneven hardness of sandstone, some patches resist erosion much better than others. The softer material is removed by wind and water, leaving thousands of unique, geologic goblins. Water erosion and the smoothing action of windblown dust work together to shape the goblins.”

The park offers a lot of activities. You can camp there, hike there, observe the wildlife, and study the amazing geology there.

Educators bring their students there, families can hold reunions there, and lovers can marry there.

We need to protect and preserve Goblin Valley State Park just like we need to protect all of our public lands because they are disappearing at an alarming rate, consumed by an unforgiving urban sprawl.

And those who violate those lands?

We should throw the book at them.

No bad days!

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Goblin Valley, Utah
Goblin Valley, Utah

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  • Mike December 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Authorities were able to come up with a punishment for Michael Fatali when he lit a fire under an arch (simply to try to light it dramatically- not destroy it knowingly), it seems it shouldn’t be that difficult to come up with something for these morons. Fatali got a $16,000 fine and the damage he inflicted was not intended, these brainiacs knowingly and with intent destroyed a part of the park that can never be repaired and then made a video of it to brag to friends. Intent makes a big difference in most charges and should be looked at in the charges they finally level against these guys.

    • Karen December 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      By the way, Mike Fatali lite the fire under none other than Delicate Arch, the most famous arch in Utah! The self-professed “natural light” photographer was teaching a class inside Arches National Park. The group took multiple fireplace logs and placed them in aluminum foil tins and lit them. Of course, the fire burned through the tins and he and his group just left them there and did not report the incident. Months later, you could still see the black burn marks in and around Delicate Arch. Experts finally were able to remove most of the marks. I think Fatali got off easy. He should have been banned from any National Park for life!

      • Mike December 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

        No discounting the damage and how it came about, Fatali admitted his wrong doing, but he was ignorant and didn’t realize the damage he would cause. But as you state in your comment, experts were able to repair the damage. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the goblin back together again.

  • JOSH DALTON December 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

    These are grown … men. That is the only reason they should be charged. They should know better. If they weren’t Scouts, somebody would have accused them of being on drugs. If these guys would have been teenagers I think people would have blamed it on video games or rap music.

    Ed. ellipsis

    • DoubleTap December 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

      They could be Scouts and still “be accused of being on drugs”. So there are no Scouts who do drugs!?!?!?
      You’re kidding right???

  • SoHo December 10, 2013 at 8:41 am

    This article is a complete and utter waste of ink.

    • Craig December 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

      And yet you took the time to read it and provide a comment. Must not have been that much of a waste.

    • McMurphy December 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Ink ??

  • Maggie December 10, 2013 at 9:16 am

    If they walk away with no punishment we are leaving the door open to others to destroy the ancient beauties of Utah.
    I still cannot believe grown men took young men out into an area like that and had not planned on using the time as a teaching moment as to how precious,valuable and fortunate we are to live among these ancient beauties rather than destroy them.
    I agree with Mike and Josh.

  • Gary December 10, 2013 at 9:22 am

    But isn’t the mantra of the liberal: “But it’s worth it if it saves just one life”.

    • McMurphy December 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

      But we are doing it for the children

    • skip2maloo December 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Where did you hear this? I’m neither liberal nor conservative in dogmatic terms, but I’m very curious about the claims both sides make against the other. On this issue, there is shared concern by both “parties.” Why simplify and reduce it to us v. them?

  • DiAnna December 10, 2013 at 9:33 am

    1) Aggravated criminal mischief?
    2) “Indigenous peoples” is a misrepresentation, according to the majority of Christian religions and scientific hypothesis…they all believe we migrated here from “somewhere” else.
    3) I’m not sure why you’re actually surprised, given the general acceptance of asinine and immature behavior…and the common practice of blaming everyone and everything for our bad behavior. Well, everyone and anything except taking personal responsibility, anyway.

  • Elaine Wilson December 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

    No that isn’t the mantra of the liberals. You obviously don’t know as much as you think you do.

    I really don’t see why it’s even a question–the men committed a crime and should pay the price for it. I can’t believe it’s taking this long to figure that out.

  • Ron December 10, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Too bad we can’t put people in the stocks these days and display them in the public square. These guys need to be humiliated, pelted with garbage, and forced to own up to the stupidity and irresponsibility of their actions.

  • jam December 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Yes this was wrong in so many ways. Yes this guy deserves to have some penalties for his actions. however we need to be careful not to make a blanket law or the next time you are walking out in the hills somewhere and step on something someone thinks you shouldn’t have you’ll be under the same penalties. I’m just saying don’t punish everyone for the horrible actions of 1 person

  • Bender December 10, 2013 at 11:27 am

    “centuries-old rock formation” <– Ed, you need a geology primer. Orders of magnitude older than centuries.
    Fine 'em and get some laws on the books for next time. This isn't the end of the world nor did they destroy the last hoodoo. Just a couple of dull-witted Mormon hillbilly scoutmasters that screwed up. I think they've learned their lesson.

    • Patti December 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Very much agreed Bender!

    • DoubleTap December 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      “Mormon hillbilly”…..hahaha…that’s funny. I must agree, there are a lot of those around here. And they don’t look like they are skimping on the rations at camp either.

  • Craig December 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Fine them and make them pick up trash. And, as extra punishment, them on a restricted diet with lots of exercise.
    By the looks of them, they can only benefit from the regimen.

    • Bender December 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Bender likes your style Craig.

  • Earl December 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I for one would like to see the full extent of the law be applied to these people. I am tired of seeing natural wonders, historic sites, National treasures destroyed. Once they are destroyed they are gone forever.

  • simone December 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

    What needs to happen:
    (1.) ban all of them from the BSA.
    (2.) state charges with penalties that include a HEFTY fine and jail time.
    (3.) Lifetime ban from all state parks

    What will happen:
    Nothing…because they are MORMON in Mormonville and Mormons don’t prosecute their own until they are forced too because the national media makes a fuss, or Der Fuhrer, Thomas Monson, receives a “revelation from God” that says they need to be punished.

  • Throckmorton December 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

    It wasn’t their call to make. If it was deemed a danger, and it may have been, park service should have been notified. It may have outlived earthquakes, but probably wouldn’t have lasted another if a fast guy could roll it with a few pushes.
    As to the claim that earlier populations’ markings were universally altruistic, that just can’t be substantiated. Every culture and generation has a common affliction – teenagers.
    Give these guys some community service. Make them roll Ed’s blunts for the next ten.

  • Justice For All December 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    These are the same idiots who claim that “Jodi Arias is evil and should die.” They are total morons. They were friends of Travis Alexander but were partying in Mexico the day after Travis was murdered. They barely graduated from high school. They eat too much manufactured “food”. They represent all that is loathsome about the United States.

    • Bender December 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      [backs away slowly from poster, closes the door, locks the deadbolt]

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