An Idaho man who defaced an iconic natural arch in southern Utah is apologizing for his actions while promising to protect public lands in the future.
Pictures of Ryan Andersen, his wife Jennifer and their three children posing in front of graffiti scratched into the Corona Arch began circulating last week on social media. Andersen owns Andersen Hitches in Idaho Falls.
The photos show the number "18" scratched into the base of the arch with the initials "R" and "J" and a heart drawn between them. The Canyon Country District of the Bureau of Land Management confirmed the agency is investigating the vandalism but further details were not released.
In a letter posted online Thursday, Andersen admitted to defacing the arch and says he will accept full responsibility for his actions.
Here is the statement:
DEAR FRIENDS AND CONCERNED CITIZENS,
I am very sorry and embarrassed for my recent actions when visiting Corona Arch in southern Utah. While hiking in the Moab area with my family, I drew with a sandstone shard, a heart with my and my wife's initials and the year above it.
At that moment, I foolishly thought I was conveying my love for my wife when, in fact, I was tarnishing the experience for others who also want to enjoy magnificent scenery. My actions were wrong. I am extremely sorry for my conduct. I acted in the spur of the moment and did not stop to think about what I was doing.
Sometimes, our biggest mistakes can lead us to become better people. From now on, I will endeavor to leave no trace and help to protect our public lands. As part of that commitment, I have pledged to pay for the BLM's work to restore the damage I caused. I have also pledged to work with the government to speak out on this issue so others do not make the same mistake that I made. I truly believe that all of us have the responsibility to help ensure that our public lands remain pristine.
I accept full responsibility for my actions. Neither Andersen Hitches nor its hard working employees, who are committed to supporting our loyal customers and their own families, had any involvement in my wrongdoing. To those dedicated employees, I offer my sincere apology. Going forward, I will do everything I can to show my employees, my community, and the public at large that this conduct is not what I stand for.
Please understand that my wife and I have wanted to come forward and make a statement but were advised not to do so while the BLM continued their investigation. We have been cooperating with the BLM and await their decision.
Andersen also offers a place for readers to submit comments or messages "with any suggestions you have for additional work I can do with the BLM or other similar groups."
Federal law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to "willfully deface, disturb, remove or destroy any personal property, or structures, or any scientific, cultural, archaeological or historic resource, natural object or area" on public lands. The maximum penalty for such a violation is a $100,000 fine and one year in prison.