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Utah monolith site damage example of bad behavior on public lands

Posted at 4:20 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 19:39:16-05

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s no secret that 2020 has sent more people outside and into more remote parts of Utah. The craze surrounding the Utah Monolith also came with some people treating the delicate landscape in Southeastern Utah poorly.

“The site is in a remote area without services for the large number of people who now want to see it,” said Bureau of Land Management Monticello Field Manager Amber Denton Johnson in a news release on Sunday. “Whenever you visit public lands please follow Leave No Trace principles and Federal and local laws and guidance.”

WATCH: Mystery of Utah's disappearing monolith explained

BLM staff reporting vehicles parking on vegetation in the area and visitors leaving behind trash and human waste. The Monolith is the latest example of increased visitation in an area leading to some increased footprint left behind by humans.

Earlier in the summer, some Utah State Parks, specifically in Southern Utah, saw a dramatic increase in visitors.

Utah monolith site waste
The BLM said the area where "the monolith" was located did not have any nearby restrooms, and some visitors improperly disposed of human waste there.

“There have been a couple of notable challenges we’ve had this year,” said Utah State Parks’ Eugene Swalberg. “We’ve had some vehicle burglaries at a couple of our parks, we’ve had some vandalism but it’s not like we’ve never had vandalism but certainly having more vandalism and we never like to see that.”

Swalberg doesn’t want to point the finger solely at State Parks visitors. Rather, he, along with others from the National Park Service, BLM and state agencies are focusing on education initiatives, especially for people who are new to the outdoors and recreation.

“Because of the pandemic, part of the solution is getting outside,” Swalberg acknowledged. “In our world, the buzz word is certainly responsible recreation.”

While visitation varies from park to park, Zion National Park put out a public plea to ‘Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints’ on Wednesday.

READ: BLM says some visitors to 'monolith' harmed public lands

“Recently there has been an uptick in some visitors wanting to leave their “mark” during their visit,” said a spokesperson for Zion National Park in a media release. No one comes to the park expecting to see graffiti but nearly every day, staff find words and shapes, carved, drawn, painted (with mud, dirt, pigment, paint), or scratched on rocks and more recently even carved within moss.”

Zion National Park staff reminded park goers that graffiti is a crime and could result in punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

“Our goal is to make as much of public lands accessible and available for recreation, I think we’ve done that and to keep people safe and I think managers have done a great job of finding that balance,” said Jim Ireland, Utah State Coordinator for the National Parks Service and Superintendent of Timpanogos Cave National Monument.