weather icon Clear

Internet-famous group faces charges in several national parks

Five defendants from the Canadian group High On Life appeared in the Yellowstone Justice Center on Nov. 1 for multiple violation notices from National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management public lands.

Two defendants from the YouTube famous group pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone and Death Valley National Park. The other three defendants pleaded not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys.

Included in the group that charges were brought against include Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, Justis Cooper Price Brown, Parker Heuser, and Hamish McNab Campbell Cross. The team was the subject of multiple investigations by the NPS and the BLM.

Among the areas the two organizations were investigating alleged incidents were Death Valley, Yellowstone, Zion National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, BLM Corona Arch, and BLM Bonneville Salt Flats.

Mike Reynolds, Death Valley National Park superintendent, explained that it appeared that the group had little to no regard for the national parks and the preservation of its lands.

“I am deeply offended by the serial nature of these violations,” said Mike Reynolds, Death Valley National Park superintendent. “This is a pattern of behavior that shows no respect for environmental protection or the experiences of other park visitors.”

On March 11, a park ranger cited three people from High On Life at Badwater in Death Valley on charges of using a bicycle off the roadway, possessing a bicycle in a wilderness area, operating a drone, and commercial photography without a permit.

Group member Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley, including riding a bike in a wilderness and commercial photographs without a permit.

Heuser is also set to pay collateral fines more than $10,000 stemming from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats (BLM).

“Over 91 percent of Death Valley National Park is designated wilderness,” Reynolds said. “By law, wilderness areas are supposed to be free of mechanized equipment and commercial activities. These violations occurred at Badwater, which is the most-visited area in the Death Valley National Park Wilderness. Using a bicycle off road can also leave tracks that can be a visible impact to park visitors for a long time.”

Then on May 16, park rangers in Yellowstone were alerted to four individuals walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. During the investigation, park rangers identified the four individuals involved in the violations in Yellowstone National Park and arrest warrants were subsequently issued.

Park rangers utilized social media and tips from the public, and additional investigations were used to discover the group’s illegal activities on other federal lands.

Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone that included disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area.

He agreed to pay over $8,000 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, and fees.

Both Heuser and Cross will be on probation for five years, with parameters including 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 judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” said Dan Wenk, Yellowstone National Park superintendent. “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.”

The National Park Service cautions that 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 and walking on the mats damages the microscopic communities. In addition, footprints left behind impact the visual landscape visitors expect when visiting Yellowstone.

Also, aside from the physical and visual damages, people can cause to the mats, there is injury danger to humans when such instances occur as well.

Severe or fatal burns can be caused by the scalding hot water which underlies much of the thin, breakable crust around hot springs like Grand Prismatic Spring.

More people have been injured or killed in hot springs than any other natural feature in Yellowstone, according to the park service. Most recently, a fatality occurred in June at the Norris Geyser Basin when a man walked off the designated boardwalk, slipped, and fell into a hot spring.

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Nye County residents honored as Nevada heroes

Throughout the disruption and chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been everyday citizens doing incredible work to help their communities through these difficult times, giving countless hours and endless energy in the mission to keep people safe, healthy and connected and Nevada Health Response is striving to ensure those actions do not go unnoticed.

PVYA goes virtual for 2020

Pahrump Valley Youth Activities was nearly forced to forego its 2020 Summer Camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic but through a partnership with the NyE Communities Coalition, the beloved annual event has been saved and will now take place virtually, helping keep both participants and staff safe and healthy.

Nye County Commission meetings and certain offices reopen to public

On Tuesday, June 2, the Nye County Commission held its first meeting with in-person public attendance since early March, when the governor declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak and issued an emergency directive banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

Optimizing your freezer saves time and money

Freezing food saves time by reducing grocery store runs and money when you purchase sale items in quantity. Make the most of your investment by using your freezer to its full potential.

Pahrump’s Leslie Street freshly paved, county to tackle finish work

Leslie Street in the Pahrump Valley has a fresh new coat of asphalt, with paving of the 1-mile stretch between Irene Street and Basin Avenue concluding as of June 1. There is, however, still some finishing work to be done before the project is complete, tasks that, just as the prep work conducted before the paving was laid, will be handled by Nye County Public Works crews.

Three die in Inyo County crash

Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services crews responded to several fatal vehicle crashes last weekend.

Ford warns against utility imposter scams

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford on Friday advised Nevadans to watch out for utility imposter phone scams as local businesses reopen.

Sisolak approves plan for tests, labs, contact tracing

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday, June 1 announced the approval of a comprehensive community-based testing, laboratory analysis and contact tracing plan to support efforts to reopen Nevada’s economy.

Study shows record high rates of food insecurity

One in three children will experience food insecurity this year because of the COVID-19, according to the annual Map the Meal Gap study released Tuesday by Three Square Food Bank.