Two acts of vandalism in Moab, Utah

Two acts of vandalism happened to rock art near Moab last week.

Birthing Rock before the vandalism, Image by Alan Cressler

Near Moab a climber intentionally bolted through a rock art panel. This has been widely reported on social media and in the outdoor recreation world. The climb is called the Sunshine Slabs. The bolts were removed by other climbers, but the holes that remain and will hasten erosion of the rock art panel.

The offender’s defense was that he was trying to make the very easier (5.3) climb even more accessible. It is important to note that even though this happened on public land, it is illegal make permanent changes to the public land without permits. It’s the same as mining for gold or building a road without permits, its illegal. The culprit is known and is presumably being dealt with by the BLM who manages the site. Read more (here).

A much more egregious act of vandalism also occurred near Moab. Birthing Rock, a well-known and extraordinary panel, was tagged with a white supremist slogan and pornography. There aren’t words to express the outrage we feel at the Archive over this desecration.

The Birthing Rock vandal is not known, and the BLM has offered a $10,000 reward for information (here).  

That both acts of vandalism happened near Moab is upsetting but not particularly surprising. Moab has experienced an explosion of visitation but funding for land management has been at best flat. There is a lack of resources for enforcement in the BLM Moab field office. It is easy for bad actors like these two vandals destroy important cultural heritage with relative impunity.

As more people go into the desert incidents like these will be more common. The only reasonable thing we can do is record the sites now and try to educate people about their importance.