A man identified as the organizer of an off-road vehicle event that damaged sensitive environment in Grand Teton National Park in 2020 is facing a series of federal charge.
Jacob “Jake” Hobbs was charged on Wednesday with unlawfully destroying and damaging property, unlawfully destroying and disturbing Grand Teton’s natural state plants and products, failing to report a property damage incident exceeding $300, destroying a monument and operating a motor vehicle in a restricted area.
He faces penalties of up to 27 months in prison, five years of probation and fines of up to $25,000.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, a park ranger was notified the night of July 18, 2020 of numerous motorized dirt bikes congregating in the Mormon Row area of the park.
A video showed around 30 to 40 people who appeared to be packing up and leaving the area. A ranger determined this event was an organized race among friends staying at the park’s Gros Ventre Campground as part of an annual party.
The race ultimately caused damage to 4,000 square feet of the Mormon Row.
Tips from the public showed multiple Instagram posts with the tag #boltsbday11 associated with videos and social posts showing pit bike races taking place along Mormon Row.
According to the state of Utah, Hobbs officially co-founded his business, BoltsAction LLC, in 2010, although it was unofficially founded in 2009, according to information contained in his internet blog. Hobbs was identified as a Salt Lake City resident in a statement accompanying the charges, but the report also said he was identified at the time of the incident from his Arizona driver’s license.
Rob Wallace, former U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while it was infrequent, he did see some “bad actors” who either ignorantly or maliciously desecrated park areas while in office.
“The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation have embarked on a $5 million, multi-year project to restore the historic character of Mormon Row,” he said. “To think that these vandals could undo in a matter of minutes what has taken years of diligent, hard work and money to put together is a pretty sad statement about the way these people view our public lands.”
A statement accompanying charges said the race had been occurring annually on Mormon Row since 2013, but the statement added photos posted to social media and blogs indicated the race had taken place as early as 2011.
The video of the races showed Hobbs in the middle of a racetrack marked out with white flags, speaking into a bullhorn. Several videos provided as evidence show damage to the area growing worse as the day goes on.
Hobbs’ lawyer told a park ranger in August 2020 that Hobbs and the group were only in the area for approximately one hour and that Hobbs believed they were on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. She also said there was no formal races, drug use or betting.
The ranger discovered at least two awards were given out during the race that July night, one for “most improved rider” and one for “run what ya brung.”
Grand Teton officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.
The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to a sagebrush steppe habitat. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.
The various agencies had invested several years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding the native species. The area damaged by the motorcycle riders had been reseeded just last year.
The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on the sagebrush steppe.