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!
- Perspectives: Rock tipping in a land of overreaction; hoodoo hullabaloo in Goblin Valley
- Wildlife officials seek public aid locating San Juan County poachers
- National conservation group in town to assist locals with Moe’s Valley stewardship project
- Design student interns evaluate Ivins sensitive lands, suggest improvement; Education in Action program
- Red Rock Hiking hunts for longest panel of petroglyphs; STGNews Videocast
- Land Hill petroglyph sites vandalized; BLM seeks public assistance
- Fight the ‘War on Poaching’ in Utah’s wilderness; how to report suspicious activity
- I can’t believe I survived; video of flash flood crashing down on canyoneers
- Southern Parkway road construction unearths ancient ruins; what archaeologists say
- Boulder dumping, spring cleaning; one man’s waste, another’s treasure?
- What the HAYnes? It’s exciting living with geological perils; or, City of St. George shrugged
- Husband reflects on house-crashing boulder, wife’s close call; future of the rock
- Rocks, resources and faults; new geological mapping of St. George area
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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