Man Sentenced for Illegal Activities and Violations in Yellowstone National Park
GREAT FALLS – Theodore Eugene Garland of Oklahoma was recently convicted of seven counts of illegal activities and violations in Yellowstone National Park.
Garland appeared before trial judge Mark Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on July 2, 2021, for sentencing.
Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in a press release Monday that Garland, 60, has a social media page, podcast and guidebook. All three have overlapping images and messages about her tours in YNP, which violated closures and other park regulations and encouraged visitors to do the same. Some of the examples included the provision of unauthorized guided tours; intrusion on thermal grounds; violate swimming closures and cliff jumping; to create “hot pots in the rivers”; and disturb wildlife.
Among the evidence presented, according to court documents:
- The defendant visited Mystic Falls. Mystic Falls is another waterfall within the borders of YNP. While there, the defendant created a swimming pot. The defendant created the pot by moving rocks in the river to regulate the flow of hot and cold water. A Ranger was able to locate and dismantle this hotpot. The defendant discussed the creation of this hotpot on its podcast, in the guide, and on Explore’s two social media accounts. The defendant also posted videos of himself in the hotpot on Explore’s social media accounts.
- In the guide and in the podcast, the defendant discusses cliff jumping in an area of the YNP called the Firehole. A witness read this section of the guide and listened to this part of the podcast. In the guide and podcast, the defendant explains that cliff jumping is illegal in YNP and can be dangerous, but suggests visitors do so anyway.
- The Superintendent’s Compendium defines a thermal zone as any area where surface manifestations of hot springs, geysers, mud springs, fumaroles or hot soil are present. In YNP, the typical surface manifestation, or signs of thermal characteristics for the sake of simplicity, is discoloration and warmth of the surrounding area. In Exhibit 32, it is clear that the defendant is standing on a thermal floor. Green grass is all around the defendant in the photo, but he chose to stand on discolored ground a few feet from the thermal feature.
- Despite the obvious danger, the defendant took a video of what he calls Lime Geyser a few feet away. The accused is so close to the geyser that he can be heard bubbling in rooms 213 and 114 as he speaks. This alone indicates that the court defendant was in a thermal zone, but photos and videos taken by a ranger make it clear that the defendant was in the thermal zone.
Garland has been charged with 15 counts of illegal activity and violation of national park regulations. After hearing the evidence at a court trial held on April 7-8, 2021, Judge Carman found Garland guilty of seven counts.
In sentencing, prosecutors requested that Garland be jailed for 30 days, served concurrently, on all counts; pay a fine of $ 750 for each count; make a community service payment of $ 750 for each count; five years of unsupervised probation; and that he received a ban from Yellowstone National Park for five years.
Judge Carman convicted Garland on all seven counts, resulting in a seven-day jail term; a total of $ 600 in fines and costs; a one-time payment of $ 500 to the Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund; and a ban from Yellowstone National Park until December 31, 2021.
Garland was also ordered to write an introduction / procedure to his guide communicating respect for the park and removing references to illegal activities by July 16, 2021.
Garland will also serve five years of unsupervised probation and “will not promote law violations in national parks in any way.”
“Enforcement of federal criminal laws for the protection of our national park resources will always remain a priority for the United States attorney’s office in Wyoming,” Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray said in the press release. “This is especially true when a greed-motivated criminal like Mr. Garland encourages others to commit more crimes and do more damage to the treasures of America’s first national park.”
This case was handled by the National Park Service and prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.