Humans demolish Utah monolith and trash delicate desert

U.S. & World

Photograph by Michael James Newlands

MYSTERY WIRE — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) visited the site where an illegally installed “monolith” had previously been discovered to confirm that an unknown party removed the structure sometime on the evening of Friday, Nov. 27.

The BLM stated they did not remove the structure which was discovered on public lands on November 18.

A Utah based nature photographer says he not only knows what happened to the monolith, he saw it removed.

Ross Bernards wrote in an Instagram post he visited the site late Friday to take photographs at night. But after having the site to himself for over an hour, four people showed up, knocked over the monolith, and removed it in pieces.

If you’re interested in what exactly happened to the monolith keep reading because I was literally there. On Friday, 3 friends and myself drove the 6 hours down to the middle of nowhere in Utah and got to the “trailhead” around 7 PM after passing a sea of cars on our way in.
We passed one group as we hiked towards the mysterious monolith, while another group was there when we arrived, and they left pretty quick after we got there. For the next hour and 40 minutes we had the place to ourselves.
I had just finished taking some photos of the monolith under the moonlight and was taking a break, thinking about settings I needed to change for my last battery of drone flight when we heard some voices coming up the canyon. We were contemplating packing up our things as they walked up, so they could enjoy it for themselves like we did. At this point I looked down at my watch and it was 8:40 PM.
4 guys rounded the corner and 2 of them walked forward. They gave a couple of pushes on the monolith and one of them said “You better have got your pictures.” He then gave it a big push, and it went over, leaning to one side. He yelled back to his other friends that they didn’t need the tools. The other guy with him at the monolith then said “this is why you don’t leave trash in the desert.” Then all four of them came up and pushed it almost to the ground on one side, before they decided push it back the other when it then popped out and landed on the ground with a loud bang. They quickly broke it apart and as they were carrying to the wheelbarrow that they had brought one of them looked back at us all and said “Leave no trace.” That was at 8:48.
If you’re asking why we didn’t stop them well, they were right to take it out. We stayed the night and the next day hiked to a hill top overlooking the area where we saw at least 70 different cars (and a plane) in and out. Cars parking everywhere in the delicate desert landscape. Nobody following a path or each other. We could literally see people trying to approach it from every direction to try and reach it, permanently altering the untouched landscape. Mother Nature is an artist, it’s best to leave the art in the wild to her.

Ross Bernards

Another person who says he was present when the monolith was demolished is Michael James Newlands, 38, of Denver.

“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” he told The New York Times. “We didn’t know who they were, and we were not going to do anything to stop them.” He added, “They just came in there to execute and they were like, ‘This is our mission.’”

Despite attempts to keep visitors from locating the monolith, over the course of Thanksgiving week, the BLM said a relatively large number of people still showed up to the site, which has not been developed for heavy visitation.

“The structure received national and international interest and sparked a dialogue regarding who installed it and what it symbolized, generating widespread attention,” said the BLM in a press release. “The BLM received both positive and negative input regarding the status of the structure and was investigating who installed it when a person or group removed it.”

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act prohibit any development on public lands without approval by the BLM.

“We recognize the incredible interest the ‘monolith’ has generated world-wide. Many people have been enjoying the mystery and view it as a welcome distraction from the 2020 news cycle,” said Monticello Field Manager Amber Denton Johnson. “Even so, it was installed without authorization on public lands and the site is in a remote area without services for the large number of people who now want to see it. Whenever you visit public lands please follow Leave No Trace principles and Federal and local laws and guidance.”

The BLM said visitors who flocked to the site parked on vegetation and left behind human waste as evidence of their visit. There is no restrooms or parking areas at this site and the BLM recommends that visitors not attempt to visit the site, which has no cell service and requires high clearance vehicles.

Authorities said passenger vehicles have already been towed from the area.

“We remind the public that driving off designated roads and trails in the Monticello Field Office is illegal.”

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