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Rafter, 75, Fined for Dumping Trash in Grand Canyon

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 10, 2014 2:17 PM

Don't dump trash in the Grand Canyon. That's the message that you might learn from a rafter who was just ordered to pay close to $2,500 for dumping trash in the Colorado River.

In a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, federal prosecutors announced that Nels Nicholas Niemi, 75, was ordered to pay fines and court costs after being found guilty of "dumping refuse into the Colorado River." Niemi was leading a group down a 12-day rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park when the violation occurred.

Why is this Grand Canyon dumping case so special?

Dumping Is Illegal, but Hard to Prove

Niemi was found guilty of dumping in Grand Canyon National Park in late October and was sentenced on December 1. While the 75-year-old certainly isn't the first outdoorsman to be chastised for not following national park rules, he may be one of the few punished for it.

Laura Van Inwagen, a law-enforcement specialist for Grand Canyon National Park, told The Arizona Republic that its "unusual to have enough concrete evidence to prosecute dumping cases." Inwagen thinks it's "pretty neat" that prosecutors were able to make their successful dumping case against Niemi, although Niemi might disagree.

Bench Trial

Although Niemi wasn't sentenced to any jail time, he will have to pay $1,500 in fines, $966.76 in court costs, and $20 in assessments for both dumping and illegally gathering firewood while in Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to being sentenced by a federal magistrate, Niemi also had a bench trial, meaning there was only a judge present to determine his guilt or innocence.

Be Respectful of our National Parks

This nation's national parks are well protected resources, but it isn't impossible for visitors to illegally make a mess of things. A little over a month ago, a graffiti artist made headlines by tagging national parks including the Grand Canyon, which is also illegal.

The Grand Canyon and the Colorado River really are for all Americans to enjoy, so try not to ruin either one for everyone else.

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