Plaque Honoring Utah Detective-Reservist Killed in Iraq Must Come Down
Sep 16, 2004 10:28 am US/Mountain
A plaque placed atop Kings Peak on Saturday to honor a Salt Lake City police detective killed while serving with the Marine reserves in Iraq violated wilderness law and will have to come down, Forest Service officials said.
James Cawley, 41, Layton, died March 29, 2003, when he was struck by a Humvee as he sought cover from enemy fire. Seven police colleagues and Cawley's older brother hiked to the summit of 13,528-foot Kings Peak, Utah's highest point, to leave the 14-pound plaque.
Leaving human-made objects on Kings Peak, which is inside the High Uintas Wilderness Area, violates the 1964 Wilderness Act and Forest Service wilderness regulations, said Clark Tucker, district ranger for the Ashley National Forest.
``Human intrusions are supposed to be kept to a minimum,'' Tucker said. ``(The High Uintas) is a special place. It's not a place for monuments or structures.''
Assistant Police Chief Carroll Mays, who organized the trip, said he had received permission over the phone from Rick Schuler, a recreation manager for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Schuler on Wednesday acknowledged giving the permission, but said he had no authority to do so.
``It was a screw-up on my part,'' Schuler said. ``At the time I thought it was a great thing.... I was caught up in the moment.''
Most hikers access Kings Peak from the Wasatch-Cache, but it actually is in the Ashley National Forest.
Tucker said no one asked his office for permission, and it would have been denied.
After news reports about the plaque, the Forest Service received numerous complaints from citizens, among them environmentalist Dick Carter, who helped push the High Uintas wilderness designation.
``It's a noteworthy point that these guys want to celebrate their friend at the top of Utah in one of the biggest wilderness areas in the lower 48,'' Carter said. ``But it's counter to the context of what we should be doing with wilderness.''
Tucker said he will ask the police officers to remove the plaque as soon as possible.
``If they don't want to do it, we'll do it and (ship the plaque) back to them,'' he said.
Mays said he understands that not everyone should be able to leave tributes in wilderness, but Cawley's memorial is unique. ``We're honoring a man who gave his life for his country,'' he said.
He said the plaque is noticeable only to people who go looking for it, because it was placed several yards off the ridgeline to the southwest. ``I didn't want it to intrude on anyone's wilderness experience.''
But Mays said he is willing to cooperate with the Forest Service and remove the plaque, if asked.
Tucker and Tom Tidwell, supervisor of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said they may suggest a more appropriate place for the police to honor Cawley in either of the forests.
However, any permanent monument on forest land would be subject to an environmental review and a public-comment period as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, Tucker said.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press