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Scout Leaders Who Toppled Ancient Rock May Face Charges

A group of Boy Scout leaders could be in serious trouble after they posted video online of one of them toppling a rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

The rocks, which resemble mushrooms, date back to the Jurassic Period, about 145 to 170 million years ago. They are, to say the least, a precious reminder of the Earth's history.

In the video, two men are seen cheering on their friend, who is trying to topple one of the formations. After he pushes off another rock, the "goblin" tumbles and then the men high-five.

The Salt Lake Tribune identified the men as Scout leaders, and the paper reports that Utah State Parks officials are conducting a criminal investigation.

"It is not only wrong, but there will be consequences," Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg told the paper. "This is highly, highly inappropriate. This is not what you do at state parks. It's disturbing and upsetting."

In their defense, the men in the video say they were acting out of concern for the safety of passersby.

"Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way," the cameraman, identified as Dave Hall, says. "So it's all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley."

The Deseret News spoke to Glenn Taylor, the man who toppled the rock.

"In hindsight, the smart thing for us would have been for us to say, 'Dave, stay here. I'll run and get a ranger,' " Taylor said. "I mean, this rock was sitting in a 3-by-1/2-inch ledge."

He added: "If we were defacing property, if we had been going around knocking over all kinds of rocks, I would feel really guilty. As it is, I feel guilty because I have a conscience. But my conscience also says I did the right thing."

The Tribune says all three men — one is Taylor's son — could "face anywhere from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony depending on how much the formation is valued."

Update at 6:28 p.m. ET. 'Shocked And Disappointed':

Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirms to NPR that one of the men involved in the incident is a Scout leader and one is a member.

"We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior," Smith says, adding that Scout members and leaders are taught "the principles of 'Leave No Trace.' These principles stress a commitment to maintaining the integrity and character of the outdoors and all living things. The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach. We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action."

Update at 4:33 p.m. ET. Rock Didn't Pose Imminent Danger:

Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, tells NPR's Howard Berkes, "We are heartsick. To see folks do that is heartbreaking."

Hayes also tells Berkes that park rangers are vigilant about formations that may present a risk to visitors and take steps to protect them, when necessary. He also says that the video of the incident does not show a threat to visitors.

"I don't believe the rock was presenting an imminent danger to anybody," Hayes says.

A state parks law enforcement officer is investigating and will meet with the Emery County attorney within a week to screen possible criminal charges.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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