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CLIMBING Magazine Senior Editor Cited for Setting Fire to Boulder at Joshua Tree


by Editor

April 15, 2003

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

Editor's Note: as a correction to the inaccuracy of "The Morning Report" listed below, apparently Jonathan Thesenga was not convicted of arson. To correct the situation, in the exact words of Mr. Thesenga's attorneys, "To be clear, Mr. Thesenga was never charged with, or convicted of arson, vandalism, or any felony. He was cited for a Class B misdemeanor, also called a 'petty offense,' of 'Lighted or smoldering material discarded in a manner to create a public safety hazard.' He did not flee the scene. He received a ticket and was released by Park Rangers. He pled guilty to the misdemeanor with which he was charged. In court, in pleading guilty, he accepted responsibility for his actions, and was and remains remorseful for his misdemeandor conduct and any harm he may have inadvertently caused to the park or to climber/ranger relations." We apologise for any previous reporting inaccuracies.

As reported in "The Morning Report," a website listing daily National Park news, "Joshua Tree NP has historically been a popular gathering spot for outdoor enthusiasts during the Christmas and New Years holidays. During the 2002 holiday, all park campgrounds and facilities were full. While patrolling the Hidden Valley campground after dark on New Year’s Eve, rangers Tim Bertrand and Scott Fischer saw two people on a rock formation above the campground. After hearing the distinctive sound of a tin white gas container hitting the rock, they observed a large fire erupt on the face of the formation. When they identified themselves to the pair, both fled from the area. The rangers apprehended them as they climbed down the back of the formation. They were subsequently identified as Jonathan Thesenga and Erin Whorton.

On April 4th, Thesenga and Whorton appeared in federal court. They appeared separately in front of the magistrate, and each pled guilty. He was sentenced to five years’ unsupervised probation, banned from entering the park for five years, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. The court also required him to provide copies of the rangers’ report and the court proceedings to his employer (Climbing Magazine) and the magazine’s owner, the Primedia Corporation. Whorton was sentenced to a $500 fine and three years’ unsupervised probation and banned from entering the park for a period of three years."

Update 04/16/03


Carbondale, CO-Yesterday details of an incident and charges involving Climbing magazine editor Jonathan Thesenga and the National Park Service in Joshua Tree National Park first came to the attention of Climbing’s management team.

We immediately undertook action and conducted an internal investigation. Based on the results of those efforts, Climbing magazine this morning terminated Thesenga’s employment effective immediately. A successor will be named later.

For 33 years Climbing’s editorial content has been a constant refrain to climbers to act as environmental stewards. We have encouraged the climbing community to employ minimum impact climbing practices, and have strived as employees and representatives of Climbing and the community to maintain even higher standards for ourselves. Violations of that obligation are dealt with swiftly and deliberately.

Climbing magazine has supported the Access Fund since its inception in 1989, through financial sponsorship, marketing assistance, and editorial coverage of their efforts. Climbing’s long-time editor, publisher, former owner and current editorial consultant, Michael Kennedy, served as a volunteer on the Access Fund board of directors from 1993 through 2002 and as Access Fund president in 1999 and 2000.

Climbing magazine supported climbing specific efforts of the Conservation Alliance with corporate sponsorship from 1992 through 1998. And more recently, the magazine has supported the Utah Open Lands’ Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative, a community and industry supported effort to save Castle Valley from development. Environmental awareness and activism are the core tenets of Climbing’s philosophy - - past, present and future.

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