It took nature some 165 million years to carve the “goblin” out of the sandstone in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. It took three Boy Scout troop leaders less than a minute to topple it, an act of astoundingly blatant vandalism that the Scout leaders involved are trying to pass off as an act of public safety.

Let’s hope there’s no merit badge for that.

While the Utah rock-toppling might seem like an isolated incident of only local significance, that videotaped act — yes, they filmed themselves doing it (see below) — reflects a mindset that over the years has led to untallied displays of arrogance at parks and other public lands. The National Park Service says that it has counted more than 9,000 acts of vandalism in the federal system since 2009, and that the pace has picked up considerably since the advent of social media.

The practice was underscored in Washington, D.C., recently, when paint was splattered on the Lincoln Memorial. According to NBC News4 in Washington:

In other cases nationwide, prized natural landmarks were defaced. A vandal sprayed paint on one of Arizona’s legendary saguaro cactuses. Another damaged Native American rock art at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada. Federal workers closed Rattlesnake Canyon at Joshua Tree National Park in California after someone tagged some historic rock formations.

In New Mexico, federal prosecutors charged a pair of college students for allegedly defacing park rocks and later posting the images to Facebook.

Park Service records reveal 1,891 vandalism cases in 2012. More than $300,000 in taxpayer funds was spent to clean the damage each year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

And that’s just federal lands. It’s unclear how much damage has been done to state and local parklands.

As for the brave Boy Scout leaders in Utah, they may be facing felony charges for damaging the goblin, also called hoodoos, which are mushroom-shaped rock formations held up by a thin neck of stone, The Salt Lake Tribune reported:

The trio of men was adventuring in Goblin Valley State Park when they decided to film themselves knocking over one of the formations, known as “goblins.”

They said later it appeared to them that it was ready to fall and might hurt someone.

In the video, posted on Facebook, one man can be seen leveraging himself against a nearby rock and pushing a formation over.

“Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way,” the cameraman is heard saying. “So it’s all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley.”

After the rock falls, the three men laugh, cheer and high five each other.

So far, no word from the Boy Scouts on where vandalism falls under the Scout leader skills.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

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