Man faces jail and $25,000 fine for destroying parts of Grand Teton National Park with illegal motorcycle event

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man identified as the organizer of an all-terrain vehicle event that damaged the sensitive environment of Grand Teton National Park in 2020 is facing a series of federal charges.

Jacob “Jake” Hobbs was charged Wednesday with unlawfully destroying and damaging property, unlawfully destroying and interfering with Grand Teton’s natural state plants and products, failing to report an incident of property damage exceeding $300, destroying a monument and drives a motor vehicle in a restricted area.

He faces sentences of up to 27 months in prison, five years probation and fines of up to $25,000.

According to documents filed Wednesday in United States District Court, a park ranger was notified on the night of July 18, 2020, of the gathering of numerous motorized dirt bikes in the Mormon Row area of ​​the park.

Video showed around 30 to 40 people appearing to pack up and leave the area. A ranger determined that this event was an organized race among friends staying at the park’s Gros Ventre campground as part of an annual party.

The run ultimately caused damage to 4,000 square feet of Mormon Row.

Public guidance showed several Instagram posts with the #boltsbday11 tag combined with videos and social posts showing pit bike races taking place along Mormon Row.

According to Utah State, Hobbs officially co-founded his company, BoltsAction LLC, in 2010, though it was unofficially founded in 2009, according to information on his internet blog. Hobbs was identified as a resident of Salt Lake City in a statement accompanying the charges, but the report also says he was identified at the time of the incident from his Arizona driver’s license.

Rob Wallace, former deputy secretary of the US Department of the Interior, told the Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while it was infrequent, he had seen “bad actors” who either ignorantly or maliciously desecrated areas of park during their tenure.

“The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation have embarked on a multi-year, $5 million project to restore the historic character of Mormon Row,” he said. “To think that these vandals could undo in minutes what took years of hard work and money to put together is a pretty sad statement about how these people view our public lands.”

A statement accompanying the charges said the race had taken place every year on Mormon Row since 2013, but the statement added photos posted on social media and blogs indicating the race had taken place as early as 2011.

Video of the races showed Hobbs in the middle of a racetrack marked out with white flags, speaking into a megaphone. Several videos provided as evidence show that the damage to the area is getting worse as the day progresses.

Hobbs’ attorney told a ranger in August 2020 that Hobbs and the group were only in the area for about an hour and that Hobbs believed they were on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. She also said there were no official races, drug use or betting.

The ranger discovered that at least two awards were handed out during the race that night in July, one for ‘most improved rider’ and one for ‘run what you’ve done’.

Grand Teton officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to clear non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 native plant species to restore the site to steppe habitat. mugwort. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Teton Conservation District.

The various agencies had invested years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding native species. The area damaged by bikers had been reseeded last year.

The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse, and a variety of other wildlife, all of which depend on the sagebrush steppe.

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