Washington man sentenced for thermal trespass at Yellowstone National Park

Posted at 3:21 PM, Jun 13, 2024

A Lynwood, Washington man was sentenced on June 4, 2024 to seven days in jail for thermal trespass at Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park (YNP).

A YNP press release said 21-year-old Viktor Pyshniuk was also placed on two years of unsupervised release and received a two-year ban from the park. Pyshniuk was also ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, $30 mandatory court processing fee, and $20 special assessment. The offense occurred on April 19, 2024, according to court documents.

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The release said a YNP law enforcement officer was dispatched to the thermal area at Steamboat Geyser, located in the Norris Geyser Basin, by an on-duty park employee. The employee reported a person walking off the boardwalk at Steamboat Geyser.

A photo taken by the employee allegedly showed that Pyshniuk had clearly crossed over the fence and was walking up the hillside within 15-20 feet of Steamboat Geyser’s steam vent. Pyshniuk told the YNP officer he left the boardwalk to take photos.

According to the release, the officer pointed out signs posted throughout the area stating that it is illegal to leave the boardwalk and explained the dangers of walking in a thermal area to Pyshniuk.

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During sentencing, Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick told Pyshniuk that the sentence was intended to deter both him and members of the public, who might have witnessed his actions, from leaving the boardwalk in a thermal area. Hambrick also explained that the three-foot fencing around the boardwalk is a clear sign that the area is closed and entering it is prohibited.

“Trespassing in closed, thermal areas of Yellowstone National Park is dangerous and harms the natural resource,” Acting United States Attorney Eric Heimann said in the release. “In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time.”

The case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park law enforcement officers and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ariel Calmes.
According to the release, Steamboat Geyser, the world's tallest active geyser, is also the most dangerous, with erratic and unpredictable eruptions that can rise anywhere from six to 300 feet high.