YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — A man who was airlifted out of Yellowstone National Park in August of 2018 after getting lost looking for the Forest Fenn treasure, must repay the cost of the rescue.
Mark Lantis was convicted in 2019 for reckless disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to five years unsupervised probation, banned for five years from Yellowstone National Park, and ordered to pay $2,800 in fines to cover the cost of the rescue. He has appealed the verdict twice, the last being in early November. The verdict was upheld both times.
Lantis was searching for the famed Forest Fenn treasure chest, worth over $1 million, allegedly buried in the Rocky Mountains. Fenn, an art and antiquities collector posted clues to the treasure’s whereabouts online and in a 24-line poem that was published in his 2010 autobiography “The Thrill of the Chase.”
The treasure was found in Wyoming in June 2020. Other treasure hunters were charged and convicted for illegal activities while searching for the chest. At least four people died searching for it.
According to the court documents from the United States court of appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Lantis embarked on a day hike in Yellowstone National Park on Aug. 2, 2018 after his mom dropped him off at a trailhead. He planned to hike the Mount Holmes trail to search for the buried treasure near the peak. He planned to return to the trailhead to be picked up that afternoon.
He was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, a windbreaker, tennis shoes and carried a small backpack and shovel. He Had water, a cell phone, bear spray, a walkie talkie and a handheld GPS. He had no food.
On his hike, he noticed bear fur and scat on the trail. When he reached the base of Mount Holmes he decided to leave the trail and follow an unmarked route back to the trailhead because he “did not want to pass” the bear signs again and “thought [a] south-southwest route would be more downhill [and] faster.”
Lantis called his sister, telling her he would not make it back before nightfall. He spent the “night wet, cold, [and] scared.”
The next day, park rangers got involved and communicated with him via cellphone several times. The ranger attempted to guide him out of the backcountry. “But by 5:45 p.m., Lantis told the ranger that he was “unable to continue and needed help.” Because it was too late in the day for anyone to hike in and rescue Lantis before dark, the ranger organized a helicopter rescue,” stated the court document.
The ranger cited him for disorderly conduct alleging that he “knowingly or recklessly creat[ed] a risk of public alarm, nuisance, [or] jeopardy.”
The New York Times reported on the case on Nov. 11. According to the report, Landis said in an interview, “I’m going to keep fighting, I’ll tell you that.” Lantis, who is unemployed and has been represented by public defenders since the start of the case, said that he was aware that to keep fighting the charge might cost him legal fees, but that he hoped another public defender would be assigned to the case.