Outside magazine, March 1995
"I did it to save lives. If we're guilty of anything, we're guilty of weighing human life as being worth more than that rock."
So said William Stoner, a river guide and leader of the so-called Quartzite Eight, a group of self-appointed nature-improvers who pleaded guilty last fall to blasting Quartzite Falls, a notorious Class VI rapid on central Arizona's Salt River, inside Tonto National Forest, with 145 pounds of explosives. The action obliterated much of the falls' namesake feature, a 30-foot-long quartzite ledge that dumped water into a hydraulic reversal. There were unfounded rumors that the U.S. Forest Service, fearing possible liability, had somehow encouraged the move, but in the end it was the joint efforts of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that led to the arrests. At press time, the main players -- Stoner and his friend Richard Scott, a munitions expert -- awaited sentencing for felony destruction of federal property.
Stoner's explanation -- that he hoped to "protect" the public by lighting a fuse -- was widely panned. "The falls belonged to everybody," says Forest Service special agent Bud Shaver. "Who made them responsible for making the wilderness safe?"
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