The BLM’s spokeswoman for the Monticello office, Kimberly Finch, told The Durango Herald that the agency mailed a citation to one individual on Monday, but she declined to identify the person.
Finch said “as far as the BLM is concerned the case is closed.” However, technically the case remains open until the fine is paid. She added the agency does not plan to issue any additional citations.
The official violation is 43 CFR 8365.1-5(a)(1), which says no person on public lands shall “willfully deface, disturb, remove, destroy any scientific, cultural, archaeological or historical resource or natural object/area.”
Under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, first-time violators can face a maximum fine of up to a $250,000 or a five-year prison term, or both.
FLC officials decided not to punish the students, the college’s spokesman Mitch Davis said last week.
According to Davis, about 10 students participating in the Fort Lewis College Outdoor Pursuits program defaced a culturally significant site on Comb Ridge near Bluff, Utah, while on an overnight trip Oct. 14 to Oct. 16.
The students wrote in black charcoal “Fort Lewis College OP 2016,” and were easily identified when photographs of the graffiti were widely spread last week on social media.
Instead of punishment, the college has reached out to the BLM to have the students fix their damage as well as other graffiti at the site, Davis said.
“We’re waiting on the BLM to find out what we can do and when we can do it,” Davis wrote in an email Wednesday. “OP has also been working with the College’s Anthropology Department to create educational opportunities stemming from this incident.”
However, BLM Monticello Field Office Manager Don Hoffeins said in an emailed statement cleaning up graffiti on archaeological sites isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“The BLM must first propose a plan for restoring the damage and share with Utah’s State Historic Preservation Office to review,” Hoffeins wrote. “The BLM also needs to meet Section 106 requirements and consider the appropriate tribal consultation.”
The Fort Lewis College Outdoors Pursuits program has been in existence nearly 40 years, emphasizing “environmental awareness” and “outdoor education” through outdoor trips, according to the group’s website. Trips are supervised by “student leaders” who go through a training course before they are allowed to lead an outdoor retreat.
“OP understands the seriousness of the vandalism and will continue to educate its participants with regards to being culturally and environmentally aware,” the program wrote in a Facebook post.
On Nov. 29, FLC’s Anthropology Department wrote on its Facebook page “we vehemently condemn these actions” and plan to “educate the Fort Lewis Community, including the Outdoor Pursuits Program, about the importance of these resources to Native American descendant communities.”
The incident caught national attention amid of a flurry of similar instances in recent months. On Dec. 2, the students were named Westword’s “Schmucks of the Week.”