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Tourists who wandered into protected hot spring for photos jailed
Members of a Vancouver-based group whose photos at a protected hot spring put them in hot water have pleaded guilty to violations in four U.S. national parks.
Three members of the "High on Life SundayFundayz" group pleaded guilty last week, according to a news release from the U.S. National Park Service.
The Vancouver-based group – Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, Justis Cooper Price Brown, Parker Heuser, and Hamish McNab Campbell Cross – travels the world making videos and posting photos of their travels online.
The High on Life group first made headlines in May 2016, when they passed through Yellowstone National Park, and left the boardwalk to take part in an illegal photo shoot next to the protected Grand Prismatic Spring.
The brightly coloured hot spring is a popular tourist destination but visitors are prohibited from approaching the area, encouraged instead to hike to a higher viewpoint to see the tie-dyed-looking sensitive ecosystem.
The photos the group posted of the spring prompted further investigation in the U.S., and the men were soon charged with violations occurring in Zion, Death Valley and Mesa Verde national parks as well.
Last week, Gamble, Lyakh and Price Brown appeared before a judge in Wyoming, where all three entered guilty pleas.
Gamble and Lyakh's charges included disorderly conduct, commercial photography without a permit, use of a drone in a closed area, and riding a bike in wilderness.
Both men were sentenced to seven days in jail and ordered to pay more than US$2,000 in fines, restitution and community service payments. They will be on probation for five years under conditions including that they remove all photos and videos from their social media accounts that were taken in the four parks where violations occurred.
Price Brown pleaded guilty to charges including disorderly conduct in Yellowstone only. He will pay more than US$3,500 in fines.
In November 2016, the other two members of the group pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone and Death Valley.
Cross pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the group's time in Yellowstone, including disorderly conduct and agreed to pay more than US$8,000 in fines.
A Yellowstone official called the ruling a "very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety."
Superintendent Dan Wenk said Cross's actions at the park "damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers."
Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley: riding a bike in wilderness and taking commercial photographs without a permit. He will also pay for fines issued over violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Heuser will pay more than US$1,000.
All five members of the group are banned for five years from entering public land managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army.