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

FILE - This Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, file photo shows application icons from left, Facebook, Facebook...
Curt Gresseth

Expert gives tips on conquering your downward social media scroll

Are you addicted to the social-media scroll? An expert weighs in on what you can do to slow the scroll.
5 days ago
High water in the Gardiner River along the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, ...
Curt Gresseth

Be ready for flash flooding: Expert shares advice

An expert with the Utah Division of Emergency Management shares his expertise and crucial tips on how to be ready for flash flooding when you are in a vehicle or at home.
6 days ago
salt lake mayorMendenhall guns...
Curt Gresseth

After NY law is struck down, two Utah experts sound off on gun rights

Two advocates on either side of the gun-control vs. gun rights debate sound off on the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to expand the right to carry a firearm in public.
11 days ago
Salt Lake County Search and Rescue safely rescued a hiker  out of the Lisa Falls trail on Friday.
Curt Gresseth

Search and rescue expert has tips for hikers

Before you head out on your hike, take someone with you, tell somebody where you are going and when you plan to return. Those are just a few words for hikers from an expert on search and rescue.
12 days ago
A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Will you be ready if wildfires close in on your home? A survivor of a wildfire shares his experience and an expert shares tips and advice.
13 days ago
(Photo Credit: CNN/Shutterstock)...
Curt Gresseth

What is behind rising credit-card debt? Financial expert weighs in.

A national expert explains the sudden rise in credit-card debt in April and what you can do to lower your monthly payments.
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Dave & Dujanovic: Monolith removed from desert likely a good thing, says lawyer