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Utah parks investigators submit report on goblin-topplers

Published December 6, 2013 6:27 am

Outdoors • Legislator drafts a bill that would punish nature vandals.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Emery County Attorney's Office should now have the information it needs to decide if criminal charges should be filed against two men who pushed over a rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park.

Utah State Parks investigators said Thursday they had submitted their final investigation on the so-called goblin topplers — David Hall and Glenn Taylor — to Emery County prosecutors. The investigation began when Hall and Taylor posted a video on the Internet of Taylor pushing over the ancient rock formation.

The men have insisted they toppled the rock formation on Oct. 11 out of concern that it would fall and hurt someone, with Hall pointing out that his uncle was killed by a falling boulder. The men, who were at the state park with the Boy Scouts, were later removed from their Scout leadership positions.

The Emery County Attorney's Office had previously received a partial report on the incident from park investigators. However, the full report was delayed as investigators — who included parks officials and engineers — struggled to assign a value to the damaged formation.

A secretary for the county attorney said last month once the full report was submitted, charges could follow.

Meanwhile, outrage over the incident has prompted a Utah lawmaker to draft legislation promising stiff fines for those who dare vandalize the state's natural wonders.

Angry constituent calls started coming to Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, just days after Hall and Taylor posted their video. People wanted to know why the men weren't arrested and charged, Pitcher has said. So he called park authorities and was surprised to discover there is no law specifically addressing the men's actions.

"We don't really have anything on the books as far as state laws that deals with things as priceless as these geological formations, these antiquities, these really beautiful, irreplaceable wonders that we share here in Utah," Pitcher has said.

Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes agreed, saying that while some laws exist to deal with vandalism, they're mostly geared to the destruction of human-made property. That makes it difficult to use those laws for incidents like the one shown in the video — which had more than 4.5 million views.

"Traditionally, the courts have always looked at what is the cost," Hayes said. "But there's no way to put a value on a goblin."

In response, Pitcher is in the process of drafting legislation that would penalize people who damage Utah's natural environments. The bill is still being written, but Pitcher says he hopes it makes actions like those of Hall and Taylor a felony. Pitcher also envisions a fine of up to $15,000 and jail time for future offenders.

Pitcher's bill was to be examined by legislative research attorneys. Afterward, the bill will move through the normal legislative process during the 2014 session. Pitcher has marked the proposed legislation as a priority bill and said that, while he anticipates tweaking and debate on specifics, he also expects it to pass into law.

"I'm looking to get it passed and signed by the governor," Pitcher said.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii