Lesh fails to convince feds to ease up on him for Maroon Lake image

In a bit of irony, outwear company owner says public lands are vital to his marketing efforts

After taking several actions that many people have decried as abuse of public lands, self-styled bad boy David Lesh is crying foul that the federal government has banned him from national forest.

Lesh tried unsuccessfully Thursday to convince a federal judge in Grand Junction to let him roam on national forest so he could stage marketing events for his outdoor clothing company and participate in skiing competitions.

Lesh is facing six petty offenses for allegedly walking onto a log in Glenwood Canyon’s Hanging Lake while it was closed and riding a snowmobile in a closed terrain park at Keystone.

After he was cited but before his case was settled, Lesh posted a photo on social media that allegedly showed him defecating in Maroon Lake. U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher ruled Oct. 30 that because of Lesh’s latest action, he was prohibited from “entering onto, being on, or remaining on National Forest System Land” while awaiting disposition of his court case.

Lesh’s initial attorney withdrew from the case after the Maroon Lake incident. His new attorney, Eric Faddis of Denver, filed a motion Nov. 24 contending the Maroon Lake picture was a fabrication and should not have triggered the forestland ban.

“The alleged entry upon Maroon Lake was no entry at all,” the motion said. “No environmental harms were occasioned on that protected area. No bond conditions have been violated. The government’s reason for wanting to ban Mr. Lesh from all NFS lands is hollow. The assumption justifying enhancement of Mr. Lesh’s bond conditions was respectfully misplaced.”

The motion included exhibits to try to prove that Lesh posted a doctored photo. Exhibit B was a “stock photo” of Maroon Lake. Exhibit C was a photo of Lesh squatting. The squatting photo was superimposed on the Maroon Lake photo to make it appear he was relieving himself in the iconic lake, as Lesh claimed he was doing in an Instragram post.

“Mr. Lesh has never been to Maroon Lake,” the motion said.

David Lesh is seen in an image posted to Instagram allegedly defecating in Maroon Lake. His attorney said this week it was a doctored image and Lesh never has been to the lake near Aspen.

Lesh triggered a public outcry after several acts on public lands that critics contend are abusive and arrogant. Before the Hanging Lake and Keystone incidents, he was found guilty of petty offenses for riding a snowmobile in closed terrain on Independence Pass in July 2019 and posting a photo of himself on social media. He was fined $500 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service for his actions.

After seemingly thumbing his nose at the Forest Service, federal authorities and the public, Lesh is portraying himself at the victim of over-restrictive bond conditions.

“According to the U.S. Forest Service, as of 2015, NFS lands comprised approximately 188,336,179 acres,” his motion said. “Prohibiting Mr. Lesh from all NFS land is overbroad. The event giving rise to the enhanced bond condition — which has been shown to be inauthentic — was limited to a single locale: Maroon Lake. This insular non-event does not justify precluding Mr. Lesh from every acre of NFS land across the country.”

Lesh is contending the public lands are vital to his ability to make a living.

“Among other responsibilities, Mr. Lesh handles (his outerwear company’s) marketing,” the motion said. “That marketing includes accompanying athletes in the backcountry and on ski resorts, and taking pictures and videos for social media, emails, banner ads, print marketing and other forms of advertising. … With ski season already upon us, the restrictive bond condition substantially curtails Mr. Lesh’s ability to market and run his business.”

In addition, Lesh supplements his income as a “professional skier.”

“Most if not all professional skiing terrain is on NFS land, and defense fears this decades-long vocation will completely cease for Mr. Lesh if this bond condition is not vacated,” the motion said.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Hautzinger, countered that the bond conditions should remain in place. It is immaterial whether or not the Maroon Lake photo is genuine or not, he argued.

“The actual position of the Government has been and continues to be that the mere posting of the Maroon Lake photo was an act of impermissible defiance to the Court’s authority by the defendant, regardless of whether the image is genuine or not,” the motion said.

Hautzinger noted that Lesh posted the Maroon Lake photo on Oct. 21, just 19 days after the judge ordered him to do nothing illegal or trespass on national forest.

Posting the photo “is clear evidence of the defendant’s contempt of the Court and the judicial system,” the motion said. “It is evidence that he believes he can do whatever he wants to wherever he wants to, without regard for what the Court has ordered.”

The judge denied Lesh’s motion for leniency. His next court hearing is scheduled Jan. 11.