Lesh took verbal shot at feds before his trial for alleged misconduct in forest
Provocateur claimed Forest Service should be charged for ‘failing to protect’ Hanging Lake from mudslides
Just two days before facing a federal trial for his alleged misconduct in the White River National Forest, David Lesh took to social media with a shot at the U.S. Forest Service, the agency that cited him.
In a post on Instagram on Tuesday, Lesh said the Forest Service should face criminal charges for “failing to protect” Hanging Lake from recent mudslides. The dazzling, emerald-green waters of Hanging Lake turned murky brown last week. It’s unknown how long the discoloration will last.
Lesh is no stranger to Hanging Lake. He posted a photo last year of himself allegedly balancing on a log in the middle of Hanging Lake. He posted the picture on Instagram and triggered widespread condemnation as well as five federal counts against him. The charges for entering the lake illegally were withdrawn because the photo was apparently faked. Lesh said in an article in The New Yorker that he photoshopped the image to try to “bait” the Forest Service into charging him. A special agent for the Forest Service’s law enforcement arm said investigators couldn’t determine if the picture was doctored or authentic.
In his post on Tuesday, Lesh thumbed his nose at the Forest Service and U.S. Attorney’s Office over the incident. The post featured a link to a story from a Denver television station about the floodwaters entering Hanging Lake.
“Really puts into perspective the insignificance of a few photoshopped toes on a log,” Lesh wrote. “The Karens of Colorado should demand 5 federal charges be brought against the Forest Service for failing to protect this ‘fragile ecosystem.’”
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On Thursday, a one-day trial was held to determine if Lesh was guilty of two charges unrelated to Hanging Lake. He was tried for allegedly riding his snowmobile illegally in a Keystone terrain park while the ski area was closed during the pandemic last year and for unauthorized use of the national forest to sell or attempt to sell products. A judge rather than a jury heard the case. The judge said he would rule in coming weeks.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger said during the trial that Lesh has a “pattern of conduct” of putting provocative posts on social media to draw attention to his ski outerwear company. He noted the Aug. 3 post blaming the Forest Service for Hanging Lake’s misfortune.
What Lesh didn’t say in that post was Glenwood Canyon received unusually heavy rains on July 29 and July 31 that triggered massive, numerous mudslides that closed Interstate 70 and the railroad tracks on the other side of the Colorado River, and inundated natural features such as Hanging Lake with debris. The terrain was susceptible to flash flooding and mudslides because of the Grizzly Creek Fire last summer.
The Glenwood Post Independent reported that the National Weather Service in Grand Junction called the July 29 storm a 50- to 100-year event. One rain gauge measured 2 inches of rain in about one hour.
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