By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
A Utah man who organized an illegal motorcycle race causing damage to thousands of square feet of sensitive and historic land in Grand Teton National Park received probation and a fine after pleading guilty to charges earlier this week.
Jacob Hobbs pleaded guilty to property damage and operating a motor vehicle off the road after being caught on video in July, 2020 as one of dozens of bikers and onlookers tearing up the area near the historic Mormon Row part of the national park.
He was originally charged 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.
For his guilty plea, Hobbs received 18 months of probation and $9,000 in fines.
He was facing 27 months in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Hobbs is believed to have been holding these races since 2013.
Rob Wallace, a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, told Cowboy State Daily earlier this year that “bad actors” who maliciously or ignorantly desecrate park areas need to be sent a message to stop similar incidents.
“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,” Wallace 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,” he said.
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 Friday.
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.