Utah Boy Scouts leaders ousted after toppling ancient rock

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 21, 2013 9:16 PM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Two leaders of the Boy Scouts of America were ousted from their posts on Monday for knocking over a 170-million-year-old rock formation in a Utah state park in an incident that may result in criminal charges, state officials said.

A video of the incident posted on YouTube last week showed Utah-based scout leader Glenn Taylor dislodging a massive boulder from its spindly rock pedestal in Goblin Valley State Park as another scout leader, Dave Hall, filmed him while singing and laughing.

"We, we have now modified Goblin Valley," Hall shouts in the video, apparently taken during a scouting trip in the park. "A new Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here at the bottom."

The men were removed from their leadership positions with the Boy Scouts of America, which adheres to a "leave no trace" ethic that seeks to conserve and protect natural areas, a Utah scouting council said in a statement.

National Boy Scouts officials criticized the vandalism last week, saying it was "absolutely counter to our beliefs."

Taylor and Hall did not respond to requests for comment, but they told the Salt Lake Tribune that the boulder was loose and a safety hazard which they fixed by knocking it down.

The rock was not considered a danger by Utah State Parks, which was flooded with calls and emails expressing outrage about the incident, said agency spokesman Eugene Swalberg.

Utah law bans mutilating or defacing any natural or constructed feature or structure in state parks. Authorities were investigating whether charges could be brought against the men over the dismantling of the geologic feature called "the goblin" that dates to the late Jurassic period, he said.

It is one of thousands of sedimentary rock formations carved over millennia by water erosion and windblown dust in the park in the high desert of southeastern Utah, which draws visitors from around the world.

There has been no documented incident of anyone being injured by a falling boulder since the park's opening in 1974, Swalberg said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Christopher Wilson)