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Utah 'Goblin'-topplers in big trouble. Did government shutdown play a role? (+video)

Authorities say three men, including two Boy Scout leaders, could face felony charges after knocking over an ancient Utah desert rock formation and posting a video of the incident online.

Three men could face charges for toppling an ancient rock formation in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.
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Prosecutors in Emery County, Utah, are mulling potential felony charges against two Boy Scout leaders and another man who toppled a 170 million year old rock formation known as a “goblin,” at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah last week.

A video of the pillar falling released on Facebook on Friday shocked many Americans, including state rangers and Boy Scout officials, who said the toppling of one of hundreds of rock pillars at the park contravened tradition, rules, and potentially criminal law.

But the incident has also raised questions, exacerbated by recent the government closures of national parks due to vandalism concerns, about how average Americans and state rangers view nature stewardship in different ways.

Park rangers said that visitors should keep their hands off natural formations, especially those under state protection. "This is highly, highly inappropriate," Eugene Swalbert, a state park official, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

But Boy Scout leaders Dave Hall and Glenn Taylor – representing the Utah National Parks Council – explained that the goblin rock moved at the mere push of a hand during a hike with a group of teenage scouts. Dylan Taylor was the third man present.

After discovering the allegedly loose rock, the men said they pow-wowed for 15 minutes, discussing what to do. They ultimately decided that the rock posed a danger to hikers coming up a trail below it, especially since the park was more crowded than usual because of the shutdown of the state’s numerous national parks. They said the cheering and high fiving in the video was a result of the sheer rush of watching a massive stone dislodged and tumble.

The toppling of the goblin happened as the US was in the middle of a debate over whether the National Park Service was justified in closing national parks because the agency didn’t have the manpower to properly patrol natural treasures.

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