We have another guilty plea to report regarding unauthorized use of drones and cameras in Yellowstone National Park.
Last week Donald Criswell of Molalla, Oregon, pled guilty to Yellowstone drone violations. He had been charged with violating the Yellowstone National Park drone ban after he flew his unmanned aircraft over a crowded Midway Geyser Basin area and close to bison on August 19. On Thursday afternoon, October 2, he pled guilty to the charge of violating a closure and was fined $1,000 plus court costs.
This was summer of the drone in Yellowstone National Park: National Park officials put up signs warning that unmanned aircraft were banned, and three three cases regarding the use of unmanned aircraft in Yellowstone National Park resulted in three convictions. Unmanned aircraft have always been a violation of Yellowstone rules; in addition, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis signed a policy memorandum in late June that directs superintendents nationwide to prohibit launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service. The regulation was enacted due to the conflict or impact with a variety of park uses including disturbance of wildlife, impacts or damage to sensitive geothermal areas, and the creation of public safety hazards posed by their unregulated use. The ban is contained in the 2014 update to the Superintendent’s Compendium, which can be found online here.
In late September, Theodorus Van Vliet of the Netherlands entered a guilty plea in connection with an August 2 incident where his unmanned aircraft crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring. He was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay over $2,200 in restitution.
Earlier in September, Andreas Meissner of Germany pled guilty to charges arising from operating an unmanned aircraft that crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the West Thumb Marina back on July 18. Meissner was sentenced to a one year ban from the park, was placed on one year of unsupervised probation, and was ordered to pay over $1,600 in fines and restitution.
As these three instances illustrate, park rangers are enforcing Yellowstone drone violations. Violators could be subject to a mandatory court appearance, confiscation of their unmanned aircraft, and if found guilty could be subject to fines and other penalties.