ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — An outdoor clothing company owner in Colorado has reached a plea agreement after illegally riding his snowmobile last year on public land in White River National Forest that is closed to motorized travel, authorities said.
Virtika Outerwear owner David Lesh, 35, was fined $500 and ordered to perform 50 hours of public service for illegal use of public land, The Aspen Times reported Tuesday.
“We’re happy to see the charges were filed and went through,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “Hopefully it sends a message that we take illegal and irresponsible behavior seriously.”
Independence Pass Foundation executive director Karin Teague and two colleagues reported seeing Lesh and another snowmobiler, who was not identified, a year ago near the summit. Forest Service officials found them in photos posted on social media.
The agreement, which was announced in federal court in Grand Junction, said the public service should be performed where the infractions occurred, but it has been difficult to arrange because of COVID-19 restrictions.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher said Lesh must complete his service by Sept. 5.
Lesh’s attorney Stephen Laiche has said his client attempted to arrange public service in Wisconsin, but he was unable to find anything satisfactory. A biography on one of Lesh's social media accounts says he is a part-time Colorado resident.
Lesh wanted to complete the 50 hours with Boulder-based Only One Inc., an organization Laiche said was tied to a Native American cause, but it was unclear what tasks Lesh would undertake.
A petition calling for Colorado to revoke the business license of Virtika Outerwear had collected more than 13,800 signatures as of Tuesday. The petition accuses Lesh and his company of abusing public lands to bring attention to his company.
“The public is very angry with this,” Fitzwilliams said, adding that his office has received several emails, texts and calls encouraging aggressive prosecution for the offenses. “One thing we know is people love their national forest. It’s nice to see so many people care.”