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John Hollenhorst ReportingThe state is cracking down on people who take rocks illegally. Yes, plain old rocks. Under some circumstances, you can get in trouble even if you take them from your own private land.
It's a modern fad in landscaping – rocks at nearly every new subdivision. Those rocks have to come form somewhere. For years companies have been getting them illegally, often without knowing it.
Tracy Burnham's company got a ticket for taking rocks on his own land.
Tracy Burnham, Decorative Landscaping: "You know, it's kind of hard, when you own the property, being told what you can and cannot do on your own property."
State regulators have issued more than 30 citations in the last year. Under a 1975 law, a permit is required on federal, state or private land.
Mark Mesch, Utah Div. of Oil, Gas & Mining: "Whether that's by excavation or by picking them up off the surface by using mechanized equipment, then you have to be permitted to do that operation through the state of Utah."
The issue is environmental damage. Each company gets a permit and posts a bond. It insures the land will be cleaned up and reclaimed when the mining is finished. Otherwise, erosion and runoff can affect lots of surrounding property, not to mention ugly scars on the landscape.
Susan White, Utah Div. of Oil, Gas & Mining: "Folks out here that aren't compliant and don't take care of the land when they're done. It gives the whole industry a bad name."
The company that put together one enormous stockpile of boulders was ordered to shut down by the state, and they were fined. But the fine was just the value of three or four big boulders -- $484.
Mark Mesch: “We’re not trying to impact the economic activity here. We’re just trying to make sure the disturbance is addressed when they’re completed.”
Tracy Burnham got the permit and is back in business. He admits the state has a point.
Tracy Burnham: "You know, some people are looking for a quick buck and could destroy a piece of property and leave it. So I can see the need for something like that to insure that things are put back the way they need to."
By the way, if you pick up rocks by hand, no permit is required.