Unauthorized dirt bike ‘event’ tears up Mormon Row hayfield

JACKSON, Wyo. — National Park Service investigators are looking for information related to activities that caused significant resource damage along historic Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park.

The call came in to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at approximately 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. The reporting party said a group of people was riding dirt bikes in an open field and operating a drone along Mormon Row in the park.

In addition to the eyewitness, investigators were also able to obtain a video captured via cell phone that shows approximately 50 people taking part in some type of organized dirt bike event. The group began to breakdown the course and load the mini bikes as the reporting party called the park and recorded their activities.

Park rangers immediately responded to the scene but the group already left the area. What remained is approximately 1,000 feet of track that is two to ten feet in width. This event was not authorized and caused significant resource damage.

The historic hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove the non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to sagebrush steppe habitat. The investment in the habitat restoration represents several years of effort to collect native seed and treat invasive plants prior to seeding the native species.

The area is important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse, and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on sagebrush steppe habitat. The area that was damaged by the dirt bikes was reseeded in 2019. This project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.

Operating a motor vehicle off roadways is a violation and subject to a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment. Additionally, the System Unit Resource Protection Act provides that any person or instrumentality that destroys, causes the loss of or injures, of any National Park Service resource is liable for response costs and damages.

Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area around 8 p.m. on July 18, and can provide any information regarding this activity, is urged to call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or by email. Information may be provided anonymously.

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