CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Dave & Dujanovic: Monolith removed from desert likely a good thing, says lawyer

Dec 2, 2020, 5:12 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:22 am

utah monolith romania removed...

Photo: Utah Department of Public Safety

SALT LAKE CITY — A monolith standing undisturbed in a desert in Utah for perhaps years drew a lot of attention — and damage to the land — from the public before it was removed.

A group of friends took responsibility for removing the sculpture, and a Utah lawyer says that removing it was probably a good move.

Monolith removed just days after discovery

The monolith was first spotted on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property in Utah’s San Juan County on Nov. 18.

Utah resident Sylvan Christensen posted a video on TikTok and Instagram claiming he and his friends hauled the metal structure away Friday. On his Instagram page, he added: “Don’t abandon your personal property on public land if you don’t want it to be taken out.”

Christensen said people coming to see the monolith were damaging the land  and defecating in the desert since there are no restrooms.

But if the monolith is private property of public lands, can it be legally removed by citizens?

A legal perspective

Longtime Utah attorney Greg Skordas joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the legal ramifications. 

Debbie asked whether the monolith isn’t really abandoned property, since according to satellite imagery, it has been standing in the desert for five years.

“This is not art,” Skordas said. “You can’t just go to a national park or BLM land and create art and expect it to be part of the landscape, you can’t deface things, you can’t draw graffiti. . . Whoever put that there probably committed the crime, although that was five years ago as Debbie said. Removing it was probably a good thing because of all the attention it was getting and all the pollution it was creating by people coming to visit the site.”

Dave asked what if Christensen and his friends sell the monolith on eBay for $1 million.

“Good for them,” said Skordas.

“What about the artist?” asked Dave.

“You still call this thing art, Dave. I love you,” he replied. ” . . . It didn’t belong on BLM land. It didn’t belong in a place where the public can go and enjoy the scenery and the beauty of it. And it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Maybe the original artist can complain and say I want my monolith back, but that person is the one who created the problem in the first place.”

What is art?

Skordas said a person can’t legally remove petrified wood or an American Indian artifact from BLM land, but that person can remove garbage from public lands.

“I think you’re making the world better than when you entered it — I don’t see a crime, I don’t see a problem with that,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s a public service.”

Just because the person who created the monolith left it on BLM land doesn’t make it someone else’s, Dave pointed out.

“That’s a good point but where do you draw the line?” Skordas asked.

Monolith removed “a good thing”

What’s to stop one person from placing what he or she calls art on public lands and then someone else from placing something on public land that is viewed as offensive, he said. What gets to stay and what has to go?

“That’s why we can’t go and put something on BLM land that doesn’t belong there, that wasn’t part of the natural landscape,” Skordas said.

“Overall it was probably a good thing” that the monolith was removed from public lands to protect the environment from public destruction, he said, and that’s why Christensen and his friend probably won’t  be prosecuted for removing it.

“It wasn’t causing any problems, but once it did, the smart thing was to remove it,” he said.

Related:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

kansas city shooting...

NICK INGRAM Associated Press

2 adults are charged with murder in the deadly shooting at Kansas City’s Super Bowl celebration

The new charges come after two juveniles were charged for the Kansas City shooting last week.

12 hours ago

Police in Tooele, Utah, have arrested a 9-year-old child for allegedly shooting and killing an adul...

Adam Small

Tooele police arrest 9-year-old child in fatal shooting of adult relative

It's unclear if the child has been charged. Tooele police said there was at least one other person in the home at the time.

14 hours ago

Ruby Franke appears in a virtual court appearance....

Josh Ellis

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt receive prison sentences for aggravated child abuse

Ruby Franke was sentenced to four terms of one-to-15 years in prison that will be served consecutively.

17 hours ago

Karen Crawford was last seen near Fashion Place Mall on Thursday Feb. 15, 2024. Any information can...

MARY CULBERTSON

Tooele County woman missing from Murray for 4 days

Karen Lee Crawford, 43, was last seen wearing a blue dress with white polka dots, a black softshell baggy coat, and silver flat shoes.

1 day ago

FILE: Purple flags at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. A Utah lawmaker says it's too easy for a rest...

Don Brinkerhoff

Domestic violence penalties would increase for restricted persons

HB166 would make domestic violence by a restricted person a second-degree felony, punishable by one year in jail.

1 day ago

Tayler Gutierrez, of Sandy, performs the Jingle Dress dance during an event to raise awareness for ...

Adam Small

Bill would continue funding Utah Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Task Force

Native Americans account for 1.5% of Utah's population, but make up over 5% of the state's murder victims.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Dave & Dujanovic: Monolith removed from desert likely a good thing, says lawyer