Bill inspired by ‘goblin topplers’ on hold in Utah legislature

Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-28 00:28:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two former Utah Boy Scout leaders made international headlines when they toppled a priceless rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park last October.

They're facing felony charges and have inspired a bill that calls for harsher penalties for those who deface Utah's natural treasures.

However, Wednesday night, a house panel narrowly voted to put the bill on hold.

South Ogden Representative Dixon Pitcher’s legislation, House Bill 68, calls for anyone who destroys more than $1,500 worth of resources at Utah State Parks to face a third-degree felony, which includes up to five years in prison, if convicted, plus fines.

Some members of a House natural resources committee discussed the bill Wednesday night, and some said the bill is nearly identical to current criminal mischief statutes and some felt it was over-reaching. In an 8-6 split vote, House Bill 68 was put on hold.

"Everybody wants to protect the priceless artifacts, geological formations, the hoodoos, the goblins, but what the bill did, a drinking fountain, a shed could be treated as a felony for destroying a priceless object and that's just too broad, it casts too broad of a net," said Rep. Ken Ivory of West Jordan.

"We need to come up with a better way to put evaluation on these items, and that's what the committee wants,” Pitcher said.

Pitcher said there may not be enough time to adjust the language in the bill in order to get the votes needed for it to move forward.  If it doesn’t pass, Pitcher plans to narrow the focus to geological features and propose a similar bill in the 2015 session.