Yellowstone Tourist Sentenced to Jail for ‘Thermal Trespass’

A Yellowstone National Park tourist who walked off a designated path and came within 15 to 20 feet of a steam vent belonging to the world’s tallest active geyser was sentenced this month to seven days in jail and banned from the park for two years, the Justice Department said.

The tourist, Viktor Pyshniuk, 21, ignored signs that said it was illegal to leave the boardwalk area and crossed a fence to walk up a hillside near Steamboat Geyser, which can shoot water more than 300 feet in the air during its unpredictable eruptions, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

At Yellowstone, there are more than 15 miles of boardwalks to protect the environment and tourists hoping to observe the national park’s thermal features, such as geysers, hot springs and mudpots, acidic hot springs that usually smells like rotten eggs.

These thermal features are unpredictable and can be dangerous, causing more injuries and deaths than encounters with wildlife. As of September, 22 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into a hot spring at Yellowstone since the park opened in 1872, according to the United States Geological Survey. In that time, two people have been killed because of bison encounters and eight people from bear encounters.

Mr. Pyshniuk, of Lynwood, Wash., was visiting Yellowstone in April when a park employee saw him walk off the boardwalk, according to the Justice Department. The employee called a Yellowstone law enforcement officer, who showed Mr. Pyshniuk the signs in the area that said it is illegal to leave the boardwalk and explained why it is dangerous.

Mr. Pyshniuk told the officer he had left the boardwalk to take photos. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Justice Department said Mr. Pyshniuk came within 15 to 20 feet of a steam vent for Steamboat Geyser, which has minor and major eruptions. A major eruption can shoot hot water hundreds of feet in the air, according to the National Park Service. The water then comes back down and rushes back to the vents, carrying mud, sand, and rock, which then shoot back in the air. The process can last three to 40 minutes, until the water supply ends, then steam emits from the geyser for several hours to several days. Minor eruptions are more common and can reach six to 40 feet in the air and last one to four minutes.

There have been three major eruptions so far this year, according to the National Park Service. One major eruption took place on April 3, a little over two weeks before Mr. Pyshniuk’s visit on April 19.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick sentenced Mr. Pyshniuk, who represented himself, to a week in jail on June 4 after he was found guilty of thermal trespass and violating a closure. Mr. Pyshniuk must also pay a $1,500 fine and $50 in fees.

It was not clear if Mr. Pyshniuk had served his jail sentence. He must serve it before Dec. 25, according to court documents.

Judge Hambrick said in court that the sentence was designed to deter Mr. Pyshniuk and the public from leaving the park’s boardwalks, according to the Justice Department. The judge noted that there is three-foot fencing around the boardwalk, clearly indicating it should not be crossed.

Eric Heimann, the acting U.S. attorney in the District of Wyoming, said in a statement that trespassing in the closed thermal areas of Yellowstone harms the land.

“In cases like this one where we have strong evidence showing a person has willfully disregarded signs and entered a closed, thermal area, federal prosecutors will seek significant penalties, including jail time,” Mr. Heimann said.

Mr. Pyshniuk was sentenced months after the actor Pierce Brosnan pleaded guilty in March to walking in a restricted thermal area of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, which is about 20 miles north of Steamboat Geyser.

Mr. Brosnan was ordered to pay a fine of $500 and make a $1,000 donation to Yellowstone Forever, a nonprofit partner of the park, according to court documents.

In an Instagram post, Mr. Brosnan said he made an “impulsive mistake,” when he entered a thermal area that he said was covered with snow.

“As an environmentalist, I have the utmost respect for and love of our natural world,” the actor wrote. “I deeply regret my transgression and offer my heartfelt apologies to all for trespassing in this sensitive area.”

Related Posts

Republicans Share Their Wishlist for Trump

We posed a question to R.N.C. attendees in Milwaukee: If Donald Trump wins, what is the first thing you want him to do as president?

In Milwaukee, Black Voters Struggle to Find a Home With Either Party

Black voters make up roughly 5 percent of the electorate in Wisconsin. But in this swing state where the election is likely to be won by a…

How Donald Trump Picked J.D. Vance

How did J.D. Vance, once a harsh critic of Donald J. Trump, win Trump’s approval and become his choice for vice president? Jonathan Swan, a reporter covering…

Project 2025, Explained

A set of conservative policy proposals called Project 2025 has put into words what a second term for Donald J. Trump could look like. Trump has distanced…

Sailor Who Tried to Access Biden’s Medical Records Was Disciplined by Navy

A Navy sailor was disciplined for trying unsuccessfully to gain unauthorized access to President Biden’s restricted medical records earlier this year, a military official said on Tuesday….

Democrats, Swallowing Fears About Biden’s Candidacy, Remain Behind Him

Congressional Democrats indicated on Tuesday that they were unwilling — at least for now — to mount an effort to push aside President Biden despite grave concerns…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *