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Lensman banned from 2 Utah parks

Fatali has paid restitution for fire at Arches

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2002 10:53 a.m. MST

Nature photographer Michael Fatali was forbidden Friday from entering Arches and Canyonlands national parks for the next two years.

He also was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and to serve two years' probation for lighting fires under some of Utah's most recognizable images in order to enhance his work.

Fatali has already paid $10,900 in restitution for damage done to Delicate Arch in September 2000 and areas in Canyonlands in August 1997. Evidence of the scorch marks and scars on the sandstone still remains.

In a quiet and barely audible voice, the 36-year-old photographer apologized during Friday's hearing. He also spoke briefly after leaving the courthouse.

"I feel really badly that I harmed the land that I love," Fatali said, clutching his wife's hand.

According to a written statement provided to the media, Fatali, a photographer for the past 18 years, deeply regrets overlooking regulations against lighting fires on National Park Service land.

The sentence, imposed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce, was lighter than federal prosecutors would have liked. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Dance proposed Fatali be ordered to serve 300 hours' community service and be banned from Utah's five national parks and seven national monuments.

The proposed sentence was justified, Dance said, given "the importance of this case to the people of the United States and even to citizens internationally who come by the millions annually to visit our national treasures."

But defense attorney Kristine Rogers argued the prohibition was too extreme, given the amount of national lands in Utah, and that Fatali makes a living photographing that land.

"It's too much geographic area," Rogers said. "It's a lot of our state, and it's the beauty of our state."

Fatali lives in Rockville, Washington County, and has a gallery just outside Zions National Park in Springdale.

Fatali pleaded guilty in December to the seven misdemeanor charges. He admitted to using DuraFlame logs to create an "uncommon photographic result" in his photos. Aluminum baking pans brought along to contain the fire failed, and the flames scorched and discolored the sandstone underneath Arches' Delicate Arch and at Horsehoof Arch and the Joint Trails Needles District in Canyonlands.

Fatali has relinquished the photos, negatives and all prints from those trips to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah, which has turned them over to the National Park Service. Rogers on Friday urged they be used by the park service, rather than destroyed.


E-mail: awelling@desnews.com

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