Canadian YouTube stars High On Life appeared in the Yellowstone Justice Center on Nov. 1 for multiple violation notices from several National Parks and public lands.
Two members of the group, Parker Heuser and Hamish Cross, pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone and Death Valley National Park. Charles Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Justis Brown pleaded not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys.
High on Life was the subject of multiple investigations by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Violations occurred at Zion, Death Valley, Yellowstone, Mesa Verde, Corona Arch, and the Bonneville Salt Flats. Through the use of social media and tips from the public, the group's violations were well-documented.
Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley for riding a bike in a wilderness area and taking commercial photos without a permit. He will also pay for collateral fines that stemmed from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats. In total, he will pay $1,000 in fines and fees.
“Over 91% of Death Valley National Park is designated wilderness. By law, wilderness areas are supposed to be free of mechanized equipment and commercial activities," said Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds. He also mentioned that using a bicycle off the road can leave tracks that impact visitors for a long time.
Meanwhile, Cross pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges in Yellowstone National Park by walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. He agreed to pay over $8,000 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, and fees.
“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers."
Walking on the bacterial mats that surround thermal features like Grand Prismatic Spring damages the microscopic communities living in the area. There's also a significant safety risk involved, as near-boiling water lies beneath the surface of the thin, breakable crust around the hot springs. More people have been injured or killed in hot springs than any other natural feature in Yellowstone.
Both Heuser and Cross will be on probation for five years and are banned from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.