Robert Long, a 55-year-old man from Texas, has been banned from Yellowstone National Park for two years after pleading guilty to charges related to violating park rules.
Long was arrested last summer after park rangers caught him wandering off-trail in the sensitive thermal areas of the park. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world, and the delicate geothermal features are protected by law.
Visitors are strictly prohibited from walking off designated trails in these areas.
According to court documents, Long was observed by park rangers leaving the boardwalk at the Grand Prismatic Spring and walking onto the fragile thermal area. He was also observed by other visitors and caught on camera, which made it easy for the rangers to identify him.
In addition to the off-trail violation, Long was also charged with carrying a loaded firearm in a national park.
Park rules prohibit visitors from carrying firearms, except in limited circumstances.
Long, who is a firearms enthusiast, told the court that he was carrying the gun for protection, as he was afraid of encountering a grizzly bear while hiking.
However, park officials emphasized that there have been no fatal grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone since 2011, and that visitors are much more likely to be injured or killed in traffic accidents or by falling from high places than by bears.
After pleading guilty to both charges, Long was ordered to pay $1,000 in fines and was banned from Yellowstone for two years. He also agreed to forfeit his firearm, which was seized by park rangers.
Yellowstone National Park officials have been vocal about the importance of following park rules and regulations, particularly when it comes to sensitive areas like the geothermal features.
Walking off-trail can cause damage to delicate ecosystems, and visitors who ignore the rules put themselves and others at risk.
In a statement released after Long’s guilty plea, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said, “Visitors to Yellowstone must recognize that they are in a unique and protected place, and that there are specific rules in place to protect the park’s resources and ensure visitor safety.
We take violations of these rules very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure that visitors understand and comply with them.”
The incident involving Long is just one example of the challenges that park officials face in managing the millions of visitors who come to Yellowstone each year.
While most visitors follow the rules and regulations, there are always a few who choose to ignore them, either out of ignorance or willful disregard.
In recent years, Yellowstone has seen an increase in visitors, which has put a strain on park resources and created new challenges for park officials.
In 2019, the park welcomed a record 4.1 million visitors, and 2020 was on track to be another busy year before the COVID-19 pandemic forced park closures and travel restrictions.
As the park prepares to reopen to visitors this spring, officials are reminding visitors of the importance of following park rules and regulations, including staying on designated trails, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and refraining from activities like drone flying and rock stacking that can cause damage to park resources.
In addition to the increased visitor numbers, Yellowstone is also facing new challenges related to climate change, which is causing shifts in the park’s ecosystems and affecting the behavior of wildlife.
Park officials are working to adapt to these changes and to develop new strategies for managing the park in a rapidly changing world.
As for Robert Long, he will have to wait two years before he can return to Yellowstone. In the meantime, he can reflect on the importance of respecting park rules and regulations, and the consequences that can result from ignoring them.
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