Two members of group accused of harming national parks, Bonneville Salt Flats plead guilty

Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 18:44:49-04

WYOMING — Five defendants from the group “High on Life” appeared in a court in Wyoming Tuesday to answer charges they damaged national parks and state lands, and two of the defendants have pleaded guilty.

The group came under investigation in May of this year after they were spotted walking on Grand Prismatic Spring, which is forbidden due to the need to protect the microscopic organisms living around the spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Based on tips as well as content posted on social media, the group was issued violations from several areas, including locations in Utah. High on Life were issued violation notices from Zion National Park, Corona Arch and Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. There are also violations from Yellowstone National Park, Death Valley National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

Hamish Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that include disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area. He has agreed to pay more than $8,000 in fines.

Parker Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley National Park that included riding a bike in wilderness and taking commercial photographs without a permit. He will also pay for "collateral fines that stemmed from violations at Bonneville Salt Flats." All told he will pay more than $1,000 in fines and fees.

Both individuals will be on probation for five years, which includes being banned from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture and Army Corps. of Engineers.

The other members of the group, Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price Brown, pleaded not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys.

“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk stated in a press release. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers. We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants.”