Several weeks ago, employees at Prescott National Forest in Arizona were alerted to a sad turn of events. The “Wizard Rock”, a large one-ton black boulder with a distinctive streak of white quartz running through it – a landmark that had always meant so much to the local community - had vanished without a trace. A direct appeal to the public was issued directly from the national forest, and on Friday, the boulder magically reappeared.
According to a statement released by the Prescott National Forest, on 1 November, a ranger was patrolling the Prescott Basin when they made the surprising discovery; the missing boulder had been returned.
“We are thrilled the Wizard Rock was returned, and are grateful that whoever took it was conscientious enough to give it back to the public," said Sarah Clawson, district ranger for the Bradshaw Ranger District. "National forests provide so many benefits to the American people, and when something like this happens, it highlights the intrinsic value of natural beauty in all its forms.”
People driving by the area had become familiar with the boulder due to its visible location near the highway, with many people stopping to look at it over the years. According to the statement, forest managers are now considering moving the Wizard Rock to a new location, where its beauty and uniqueness can be more easily seen by visitors.
This isn’t the first time forest officials have asked the public for help in locating rocks taken from the forest. Back in 2009, an 80-pound heart shaped rock was taken from Granite Mountain Wilderness. Local paper the Daily Courier ran a story about it, requesting its return, which resulted in an anonymous person bringing it back as they didn’t know it meant so much to the local people familiar with it.
In the last four months the forest has had two incidents of boulders being removed from the national forest with heavy machinery. Permits are required to gather and remove most forest products, and this includes rocks and minerals, firewood, plant and trees. Removal of minerals from national forest lands without a valid permit is illegal, and can carry a maximum fine of up US$5000 or six months in jail.