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Two men involved in toppling a boulder in Goblin Valley State Park were kicked out of Boy Scout leadership positions Monday as a criminal investigation proceeded.
David Hall and Glenn Taylor no longer will serve as leaders in the Utah National Parks Council, according to a news release from the Boy Scouts of America. The decision came from the council leadership, which referred to the men's behavior as "reprehensible" and a violation of the Scout principle of "leave no trace."
The men drew worldwide attention after they posted a video of Taylor pushing over a rock formation in the state park. Hall shot the video and posted it on Facebook. The video later spread to YouTube and was picked up by dozens of news sites and discussion forums.
John Gailey, executive director for the Orem-based National Parks Council, said leaders have been discussing the incident since the video surfaced last week. The decision to remove the men, Gailey added, came over the weekend after conversations with park leaders, the attorney general's office and the LDS Church, which sponsors the troop.
According to Gailey, Taylor was serving as a unit leader, meaning he was responsible for running the Scouting program in his area. Gailey did not immediately know Hall's leadership position.
Both men have told The Salt Lake Tribune that the rock was loose and a safety hazard, which they fixed by knocking over.
The Boy Scouts disagree.
In the news release, council leadership expressed shock and disappointment over the men's actions. It also describes them as isolated incidents that are "absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach."
Gailey reiterated Monday that Hall's and Taylor's actions "definitely didn't represent Scouting or our focus on outdoor conservation."
Hall said Monday that Boy Scout leaders talked to him about the decision and he understands why it was made. Hall expressed support for the decision and the Scouts' mission. He added that he plans to use the incident as a learning experience.
Taylor did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Utah State Parks officials confirmed Monday that steps have been taken in the investigation into the toppling, namely reaching out to the men, but they are still at a preliminary stage.
The biggest issue for investigators will be determining the value of the destroyed formation, something Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes said is "almost impossible." That value will help dictate the level of legal punishment if the case is pursued by Emery County officials.
"We are looking at the intrinsic value, and that cannot be measured in dollars and cents," Hayes said. "But our legal system is based on dollars and cents, so we have to look at what it might cost to go back and replace it."
Hayes also said the hard "caps of the Goblin formations periodically weather differently than the softer rock below."
"We have got rocks on the valley floor to prove it," Hayes said. "The part that bothers us is that people would accelerate the process."
Goblin Valley State Park does not prevent people from playing on the hoodoo formations, but a pamphlet handed out at the park entrance reads: "It is unlawful to mutilate or deface any natural or constructed feature or structure. Please help keep our parks beautiful."
"We discourage people from boulder hopping at Goblin Valley," Hayes said. "We are not worried that they will knock one over; we are more worried they will get injured from falling off the goblins."
Hayes was not sure if the public has reported dangerous formations at Goblin before, but he believes that if the men had mentioned it to rangers instead of pushing it off its pedestal, the public would have been protected.
"They would go out and look at it and decide if it was imminent danger," he said. "If they determined it was, they would put up a sign or cordon it off."
Hayes has a theory as to why the story about the goblin topplers has gone international.
"It stems around the National Park Service closure," he said. "People came to the realization once those parks closed that there were some real losses impacting their lives. Goblin Valley is not a national park but represents the same special places so many hold dear. There was an additional sense of loss when they saw the damage of our natural resources."
Join us for a Trib Talk
Some 2,000 cases of vandalism occur in national parks each year, with perpetrators damaging ancient petroglyphs, hauling away artifacts and tagging cave walls and trees with graffiti. Today 12:15 p.m., Utah state parks director Fred Hayes, Joette Langianese of the group Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks and Tribune justice editor Sheena McFarland join Jennifer Napier-Pearce to talk about vandalism in protected lands.
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