“The general public should never do this without permission!” the influencer initially commented on his Yellowstone National Park stunt. Sadly, this sort of statement would imply that Matt Manzari, a Florida motivational speaker and social media influencer, is not part of “the general public.” This would be wrong, and is a dangerous precedent to set.
Manzari now faces federal charges after filming himself walking through Yellowstone’s geothermal features. He is to appear in Yellowstone’s U.S. District Court via Zoom come Monday, August 29. Those charges are for purposefully exiting Yellowstone National Park’s designated boardwalk(s) and proceeding to place himself onto the ancient, scalding thermals near Old Faithful on July 1, 2022.
Ahead of his sentencing, Manzari told Cowboy State Daily he was “trying to create a lighthearted video making fun of himself.” The Florida man was not injured during his stunt, but many have been in the past. Yellowstone officials have to deal with these injuries – and even deaths – in these dangerous areas every year. To do so, they put their own lives on the line. The national park carries hefty legal penalties for this behavior as a result, including jail time and large fines.
“I would suspect that they are going to try and send a message that if you are being irresponsible and risking your life, it’s going to be tough to come help you,” Rob Wallace, a former National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) overseer, told the trade. “There’s going to be a consequence, one way or the other.”
Wallace adds that these penalties may be “enhanced” for people who break Yellowstone National Park laws simply to “boost their social media numbers.” It is unclear if this was Manzari’s goal, however.
‘It’s almost like sticking a finger in the eye of the Park Service and the regulations they’ve promulgated to keep us safe’
Regardless, “It’s almost like sticking a finger in the eye of the Park Service and the regulations they’ve promulgated to keep us safe,” Wallace continues.
Manzari received intense backlash on social media after publishing his stunt. It came in droves, too, as he holds a significant following on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. Yet when a follower responded (in comment form) to tell Manzari just how illegal his actions were/are, Manzari replied:
“For sure the general public should never do this without permission!”
Manzari has since deleted the video and comment, followed by a series of apologies.
“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”
It’s a sad situation all around, as Manzari has done great work in the past speaking to burn victims (which he is himself).
“The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun,” he continued for the trade. “It’s okay to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s okay to be open about what you’re going through.”
Yellowstone National Park Isn’t Playing Around
Manzari made a mistake. A big one. But too many visitors get away with leaving designated walkways or harassing wildlife. That, however, is beginning to change. As visitation increases, so is Yellowstone’s response to willfully breaking park laws.
“People that willfully ignore walking on thermal features or getting too close to wildlife run the risk of facing prosecution, which is a real buzzkill for your vacation,” Wallace continues, adding that Manzari’s apologies may not curb his penalties.
Instead, Wallace is hoping to see legal consequences “hammer the message home” for future visitors. That message? How incredibly dangerous these stunts are. And the more Yellowstone National Park prosecutes, the less often people will put their lives – and the lives of others – at risk.
Manzari’s video has since been deleted, but you can still watch it courtesy of Wyoming’s Cowboy State Daily. Hopefully his apologies are sincere, and this situation leads to less criminal activity, injuries, and deaths in the world’s first national park.