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

Dec 2, 2020, 5:12 PM
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.


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.  

Today’s Top Stories

Dave & Dujanovic

Super agers have been identified by researchers as men and women over age 80 that have the cognitiv...
Curt Gresseth

SuperAgers — who are they, are you one, and can you become one?

SuperAgers are men and women older than 80 with the mental faculties of people decades younger.
3 days ago
A motorist drives through the snow in Olympus Cove in Salt Lake County. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What you need in your emergency winter car kit

After a significant snowfall in northern Utah, are you prepared for a winter emergency while on the roads? Wade Mathews of Utah Division of Emergency Management -- Be Ready Utah joins the shows to give out holidays tips on being prepared for any challenges while driving.
5 days ago
Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides. (Stock photo)...
Alejandro Lucero

Pass the stuffing not the uncomfortable conversation this Thanksgiving

Dave and Dujanovic spoke with an expert who will help you void the gobble-squabble around the dinner table this Thanksgiving.
11 days ago
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 20: People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near the Club...
Curt Gresseth

‘I trained for this,’ says veteran who took down gunman at nightclub

A veteran joins the show to provide insight into the actions of another veteran who limited the loss of life at a Colorado nightclub by subduing the gunman until police arrived on scene.
12 days ago
Rioters at the US Capitol...
Curt Gresseth

Utah bill would limit police access to your cellphone data

A spokesman for a a libertarian think tank in Utah discusses why he supports a bill at the Legislature limiting law enforcement access to the cellphone of a person near a crime scene.
13 days ago
rollercoaster lagoon...
Curt Gresseth

Lagoon spokesman explains big price hike for day pass

Lagoon announces Primordial, a new one-of-a-kind interactive rollercoaster, coming in 2023, but with the new ride comes higher season passes.
16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Dave & Dujanovic: Monolith removed from desert likely a good thing, says lawyer