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Lawmakers pass on goblin toppling bill

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014 11:30 p.m. MST

The so-called "goblin toppling" bill was heard Wednesday by a panel of lawmakers who narrowly voted to hold the bill. Despite some who wanted more discussion on HB68, other lawmakers said the bill was too broad and could have far-reaching effects.

Utah State Parks

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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers say they love their goblins, but they rejected a bill to protect the geologic features because they said it was too broad and probably not needed.

Members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee narrowly voted 8-6 to hold HB68, sponsored by Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden.

"I don't see where this hits the target," said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan. "It seems to cast a pretty wide net."

The measure was brought in response to the October incident involving a pair of Boy Scout leaders who videotaped themselves toppling a goblin, or hoodoo, at Goblin Valley State Park. Their video posted on YouTube went viral, setting off a firestorm of public outrage over the vandalism to the natural resources.

The men insist they pushed the rock for fear it would fall and hurt passersby, but they have since been charged with felony criminal mischief and have a pending court appearance.

The hoodoos, tall columns that have made places like Bryce Canyon National Park notable, are unique geologic features — sandstone protrusions carved from the force of nature over millions of years.

Pitcher said he brought the bill in response to ambiguities in the criminal mischief law that have made it difficult to fit destruction of a natural resource under the umbrella of that statute.

Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, said the bill was needed to protect specific features at parks.

"What we are primarily concerned about are those features that constituted the designation of the park itself," he said. "The goblins in the Goblin Valley, for example, are the type of features that brought about this legislation."

But lawmakers worried that the provisions in the bill would be too far-reaching and encompass too many features at a park.

"As I see we are trying to figure out a process to deal with penalties for priceless objects," Ivory said, but added that the "loose" descriptions in the bill embrace any feature valued at $101 or more.

But several lawmakers, including Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, said he wanted to move the bill forward for additional discussion because of the importance of protecting those geologic features.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, however, said he was not convinced the bill is necessary.

"The situation we are dealing with has already been resolved by the county attorney in that county and I am not sure we are adding that much," he said.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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