Two of the High on Life defendants have plead guilty to violations in both Yellowstone and Death Valley National Parks.
According to a Yellowstone press release, Hamish McNab Campbell Cross and Parker Heuser will each face fines and and five years probation in exchange for their pleas. Under the terms of their probation, they are banned from entering any national park in the U.S.
Cross plead guilty to charges stemming from the group’s jaunt on Grand Prismatic Spring in May, while Heuser (not named in the original Yellowstone charges) plead guilty to counts in Death Valley and on BLM land in the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The other three defendants (Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexy Andriyovych Lyakh, and Justis Cooper Price-Brown) have plead not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys after their original attorney filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Gamble also faces a misdemeanor charge in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. From a Yellowstone press release:
H. Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that included disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area. He agreed to pay over $8,000.00 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, and fees. P. Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley National Park that included riding a bike in wilderness and commercial photographs without a permit. He will also pay for collateral fines that stemmed from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats (BLM). He agreed to pay more than $1,000.00 in fines and fees. P. Heuser was not charged any violations in Yellowstone National Park. Both individuals will be on probation for five years which includes being banned from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The High on Life group was issued violation notices from:
• Zion National Park
• Death Valley National Park
• Yellowstone National Park
• Mesa Verde National Park
• Corona Arch (BLM)
• Bonneville Salt Flats (BLM)
“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers. We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants.”
Harm can be done by walking on bacterial mats that surround thermal features like Grand Prismatic Spring. The colorful mats contain communities of thermophiles, or heat-loving organisms. Walking on the mats damages the microscopic communities and the footprints left behind impact the visual landscape people expect in Yellowstone.
In addition to possibly incurring damage on thermal features, visitors should stick to the boardwalk for their own safety. Indeed, a few weeks after the High on Life men ventured onto Grand Prismatic, a young man died after venturing off the boardwalk in Norris Geyser Basin, falling in a hot spring.
If you see people walking off the designated boardwalk, please signal them and (if all else fails) contact a ranger or call 911.