Wanted: Tourists wreaking havoc on natural landmarks

The Morning Glory hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. The colours, due to bacteria, have changed from blue to yellow and green because of coins and debris thrown by tourists. Photo / AFP
The Morning Glory hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. The colours, due to bacteria, have changed from blue to yellow and green because of coins and debris thrown by tourists. Photo / AFP

A group of young men from Canada have come under fire for allegedly wreaking havoc on natural landmarks in the US, including Yellowstone National Park and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Arrest warrants were issued for Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, Justis Cooper Price-Brown and Hamish McNab Campbell Cross, after a fellow visitor at Yellowstone Park reported them for veering off a boardwalk and dipping their hands into the waters of Grand Prismatic Springs.

The group, which creates videos under the name High on Life SundayFundayz, also posted now-deleted photographs of themselves standing along the spring, which is known for its delicate ecosystem.

The four men, who have been called an "embarrassment" and "disgrace", have since apologised and offered to donate US$5000 to the national park, although it is unlikely they will be extradited.

The Bureau of Land Management is also investigating the group after Facebook photos showed three of them waterskiing in the flooded Bonneville Salt Flats, which scientists say can cause permanent damage the landscape.

The criminal complaint accuses the four men of breaking the park's regulations and veering off a boardwalk before stepping onto the largest hot spring in the country.

Yellowstone spokesperson Charissa Reid said they are still assessing the damage to the "sensitive bacterial mats" that play a role in the colours of the spring.

"When people walk on them it actually makes like white footprints in the bacterial mat," Reid said. "Not only does it damage the bacterial mat but it also means that other people may be tempted to walk the same path."

In the delicate environment, the Morning Glory hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone, has changed colour over the years because of tourists.

The distinctive colours of the hot spring are due to bacteria which survive in the hot water. But its vivid colour has changed from its original blue to yellow and green after an accumulation of coins and debris thrown by tourists.

One visitor reported the incident to a park ranger after he took a video and several photographs of the offence, while the men posted photographs of themselves standing along the edge of the spring.

Yellowstone spokeswoman Charissa Reid said she thinks there are more instances of park visitors getting into trouble because they are looking to get their video and pictures out on social media.

According to their Facebook page, the group members "travel around the world for a living and make fun and adventurous videos", while promoting their clothing line.

The men, several of whom are from Vancouver, were travelling in a recreational vehicle with British Columbia license plates and are believed to be back in Canada.

Although the group said they "will be accepting the ramifications of our actions", they are unlikely to be extradited if they are already in Canada. However, they can be arrested if they attempt to cross the US border or denied entry.

They posted an apology last week that read: "Three days ago we were lucky enough to visit Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and made the unfortunate error of leaving the pathway.

"We have realised that what we did was not okay, and we want others to learn from our mistake. We got over zealous in our enthusiasm for this wonderful place.

But the group received an onslaught of criticism even after the apology.

One commenter on Facebook wrote: "You're an embarrassment to British Columbia and Canada, disrespecting your hosts in their hallowed places with your self-centered selfie sticks."

A petition, signed by more than 20,000 people on Change.org, stated: "The easiest way to stop them from doing something like this again is to pull their corporate dollars."

In a separate incident, the group has also been accused of damaging the environment at Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah.

The group posted photographs of themselves waterskiing on the flooded salt flats behind a bus in March, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

While the salt flats can withstand the weight of a vehicle when it is dry, it is vulnerable to damage when it's wet.

Geologist Brenda Bowen said the weight of a car on the wet surface compacts the layers underneath, which prevents salt water from rising and forming the dry crust.

She added the damage may be permanent, and said she believes the drivers have played a role in the salt flat's deterioration.

- Daily Mail

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