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Man sentenced for illegal activities and violations in Yellowstone National Park

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Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 20:21:13-04

GREAT FALLS — Theodore Eugene Garland of Oklahoma was sentenced recently on seven counts of illegal activities and violations in Yellowstone National Park.

Garland appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, on July 2, 2021, for the sentencing.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in a news release on Monday that Garland, 60 years old, has a social-media page, a podcast, and a guidebook. All three have overlapping pictures and posts about his guided tours in YNP, which violated closures and other park regulations and encouraged visitors to do the same. Some of the examples included providing unauthorized guided tours; trespassing on thermal grounds; violating swimming closures and cliff jumping; creating “hot pots in rivers;” and disturbing wildlife.

Among the evidence presented, according to court documents:

  • Defendant visited Mystic Falls. Mystic Falls is another waterfall within the borders of YNP. While there, Defendant created a swimming hotpot. Defendant created the hotpot by moving rocks within the river to regulate the flow of the hot and cold water. A Ranger was able to locate and dismantle this hotpot. Defendant discussed creating this hotpot on his podcast, in the guidebook, and on both of Explore’s social media accounts. Defendant also posted videos of himself in the hotpot to Explore’s social media accounts.
  • In the guidebook and in the podcast, Defendant discusses cliff jumping at an area in YNP called Firehole. A witness read this section of the guidebook and listened to that part of the podcast. In both the guidebook and podcast, Defendant explains that cliff jumping is illegal in YNP and can be dangerous but suggests visitors do it anyway.
  • The Superintendent’s Compendium defines a thermal area as any area where surface manifestations of hot springs, geysers, mud springs, fumaroles or warm ground are present. In YNP the typical surface manifestation, or signs of thermal features for the sake of simplicity, is discoloration and warmth of the surrounding area. In Exhibit 32, it is clear Defendant is standing on thermal ground. Green grass is all around Defendant in the photo, yet he elected to stand on discolored ground just feet from the thermal feature.
  • Despite the obvious danger, Defendant took a video of what he calls Lime Geyser from just feet away. Defendant is so close to the geyser that one can hear it bubbling in Exhibits 213 and 114 as he is talking. That alone tells the Court Defendant was in a thermal area, but the pictures and videos taken by a Ranger clearly establishes Defendant was in the thermal area.

Garland was charged with 15 counts of illegal activities and violating national park regulations. After hearing the evidence at a bench trial held on April 7 and 8, 2021, Judge Carman found Garland guilty on seven counts.

During sentencing, prosecutors requested that Garland be imprisoned for 30 days, served concurrently, on all counts; pay a fine of $750 for each count; make a Community Service Payment of $750 for each count; five years of unsupervised probation; and that he receive a ban from Yellowstone National Park for five years.

Judge Carman sentenced Garland on the seven counts, resulting in a seven day jail sentence; a total of $600 in fines and fees; a one-time payment of $500 to Yellowstone Forever Geological Resource Fund; and a ban from Yellowstone National Park until December 31, 2021.

Garland was also ordered to write an introduction/forward to his guidebook communicating respect for the park and removing references of illegal activity by July 16, 2021.

Garland will also serve five years of unsupervised probation and shall “not promote violations of laws in the national parks in any way.”

“Enforcing federal criminal laws for the protection of our national parks’ resources will always remain a priority of the United States Attorney’s office in Wyoming,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray in the news release. “That is especially true when a criminal motivated by greed, like Mr. Garland, encourages others to commit more crimes and cause more damage to the treasures of America’s first national park.”

This case was handled by the National Park Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.