Rogue forest visitor David Lesh faces charges for Hanging Lake, Keystone incidents
On the same day that David Lesh officially settled one case involving illegal snowmobiling on Independence Pass, he was cited for allegedly illegally swimming in Hanging Lake and snowmobiling in a Keystone ski area terrain park.
A six-count indictment was filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction on Tuesday against Lesh, 34, a part-time Colorado resident and owner of a outdoor clothing company.
One count alleged Lesh operated a snowmobile off a designated route on U.S. Forest Service land at Keystone on April 24.
Counts two through six were tied to Lesh’s alleged entry of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon on June 10.
One count said he entered an area closed for the protection of threatened, endangered, rare, unique or vanishing plants, animals or fish when entering the Hanging Lake National Natural Landmark Area.
Another count said he entered an area closed for the protection of special biological communities.
Count four said he entered an area closed for the protection of property while count five said he entered an area closed for the protection of historical, archaeological, geological or paleontological interest.
The final count said Lesh “entered or was in or on a prohibited body of water.”
All counts are misdemeanors, each with the potential penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, not more than a $5,000 fine or both, according to the document that was filed. The U.S Attorney’s Office indicated it would not seek imprisonment.
Lesh was ordered to appear in court in Grand Junction on Sept. 21.
Lesh allegedly rode his sled in the Keystone terrain park while the ski area was closed because of the coronavirus. He posted a photo of himself soaring off a jump on his snowmobile. The Forest Service worked with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation.
Two months later, Lesh posted pictures of himself walking on a log jutting into Hanging Lake, a pristine destination that was closed at the time.
He undertook the alleged activities while awaiting a June 16 court appearance for illegally snowmobiling in designated wilderness near the summit of Independence Pass east of Aspen on July 3, 2019. Wilderness areas are closed to mechanized and motorized travel.
The executive director of the Independence Foundation spotted Lesh running his sled over grass and fragile terrain near the Upper Lost Man trailhead. After an investigation by the Forest Service, he was cited for four petty offenses. In a plea arrangement, he agreed to pay a $500 fine and perform 50 hours of useful public service. Lesh paid the fine and provided documentation of completing the service by Sept. 5, so he wasn’t required to appear in court Tuesday for a follow-up, according to a court clerk.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger said in court in June that he intended to file charges against Lesh for the Keystone and Hanging Lake incidents.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told The Aspen Times after Lesh’s court appearance in June that if he was found guilty of repeat infractions, it was possible the agency would seek to ban him from entering national forest.
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The Independence Pass Foundation has worked since the mid-1990s to stabilize the steep, eroding slopes along Highway 82 near the summit of the pass. Its latest investment is $100,000 to vegetate the Top Cut.