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Monolith from Utah desert given to BLM and could go on display, say men who removed it

Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 01:31:26-05

It may have fallen, but apparently the Utah Monolith is still standing-- and there's video to prove it.

On top of that, according to the group who took it down, the monolith may end up on display in a Salt Lake City garden.

"The Utah Monolith is not gone. It's not the end of the story," said Any Lewis, during an interview with Fox 13 Monday. He is one in a group of four who have claimed ownership for removing the monolith.

He went public after the monolith, upon gaining whirlwind worldwide intrigue and infatuation, vanished in late November.

Lewis indicated they received death threats in the weeks following the monolith's disappearance. They worried people would come to their homes in search of the hunk of famed metal.

But now, it's no longer in their hands.

And that means Lewis and two of the three others, Sylvan Christensen and Homer Manson, are ready to speak about removing the monolith, the message they hope to convey, and explain the art sculpture's future.

Related: Mystery of Utah's disappearing monolith explained

Lewis is widely known around the world for his daredevil slacklining and BASE jumping. He has held the title of slackline world champion (more than once), been part of a Super Bowl Halftime show, set several records and he teaches and organizes festivals.

Lewis operates a business out of Moab, offering adventures for anyone seeking thrills surrounded by beautiful landscapes.

Because of that, Lewis, Christensen and Manson are no strangers to public land use.

But they explained that they aim to follow the standards of community for using public land, and they practice leave no trace ethics.

They say they now use their platform to teach awareness to help people recreate responsibly.

When they watched the Utah Monolith explode in fame, followed by a mass frenzy to find the metal tower deep in the desert, they said it was hard for them.

"We're going to make an impact, and there's standards for how we can make that impact," Christensen said, about using public lands. "And the monolith didn't fall into those standards."

The Bureau of Land Management hinted at that notion, by posting pictures showing how drivers flooded the remote high-clearance 4x4 road near the Canyonlands Needles District in search of the monolith.

Cars, RVs and vehicles not equipped for the road were parked every which way. Garbage littered the ground, and tire tracks ruined previously untouched soil.

The BLM explained that people were using the bathroom and leaving waste behind, in an area where there is no bathroom for miles.

Related: BLMS says visitors to Utah Monolith harmed public lands

"[The monolith] obviously couldn't stay there because it had become a destination, that was basically becoming a disruption to that area," Lewis said.

He explained that they also saw posts online from people claiming they planned to destroy the monolith.

"We also didn't want to destroy [the monolith] because it was art, and it's kind of become a symbol," Lewis said. "And we wanted to use that symbol to kind of promote the idea of what it kind of stood for, for people."

Deciding they'd take the art piece themselves to preserve it, the group said they showed up one night to remove it.

Manson described how they brought tools, but in the end they were able to simply push the monolith over and it fell on the ground.

Because it was dark, they said they picked up what they could but that the rivets had fallen out. A photographer who said he saw the group push the monolith over told Fox 13 he made sure the area was clean afterward.

The top of the monolith fell off at some point, and didn't make it out with the group. It was instead placed by someone back at the site where it once stood, according to the photographer.

Related: Well-known slackliner says he took down Utah Monolith

They described how they took it down and left just in time.

"We didn't write 'Bye B****' in the sand, or pee on it. That was a different crew" Lewis said, referring to a video someone later took showing the phrase etched in the sand, next to a large wet spot.

"The party right behind us," Christensen added.

"We actually passed another crew on the way out, they were going in to destroy it," Lewis recounted.

"We have text evidence," Manson said.

"That's exactly what we didn't want to happen, is somebody of that mentality to get a hold of it and completely lose the message behind it," Christensen relayed.

The monolith was in pieces, but the three men talked about how they rebuilt it.

They described how it took a few weeks between consulting with lawyers and speaking with the BLM, to bring the monument back to the agency.

Lewis posted a video on his Instagram, showing the monolith standing tall in a yard.

Just this last Friday, they said they drove the monument on a trailer with a tarp to conceal it to deliver it to the BLM.

Lewis explained that they donated it back to the BLM in good faith, to help with the investigation. It's their understanding, they indicated, that the monolith will end up on display again.

"That's kind of the discussion," Christensen said. "It's ultimately up to the BLM as to where they put it, but that was kind of the gentleman's agreement is that it would get put at Red Butte Garden."

If and when this international monolith of mystery ends up back in the public eye-- perhaps, according to the guys, at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City-- they explained how they want it to spark discussion about art on public lands, and responsible land use.

Lewis said he wants to use this as a "togetherness moment," where people can come together to make a proposal to the BLM and have a public decision on if there should be a place where people can place art on public lands, and figure out if that's a proper use of art space.

He said it would be nice to use the Utah Monolith to present this as a positive story, and show people how to display this art.

Christensen agreed.

"We're hoping that it can go up and become a symbol of environmental awareness, you know, a continuation of the art," he said.

The men said they have since created a nonprofit group called The Desert Canyon Collective, which will be based around environmental awareness. They said they are working with Wild River to accept donations to start helping other nonprofits in the area, and they plan to use resources to help clean up public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management would not confirm to Fox 13 if it currently has the monument in its possession, or what potential future plans might be in store for the monolith. The BLM said it is still investigating the illegal installation along with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.