A new installation is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and might have to be removed.
On Monday, the Utah Department of Public Safety announced that members of its Aero Bureau—while performing a count of big horn sheep in Red Rock Desert in the southeastern portion of the state last week—came across a large metal monolith in the remote region.
"One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it," said DPS helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings to local TV station KSL. "He was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!' And I was like, 'what.' And he's like, 'There's this thing back there—we've got to go look at it!'"
Who, or what, might have placed the 10- to 12-foot structure in the middle of the desert is shrouded in mystery. Hutchings told KSL that it looked like a new age art installation. DPS spokesperson Lt. Nick Street said that the monolith was assembled using stainless steel and pop rivets, suggesting human origins, but making it hard to guess its age.
"It could have been placed there 50, 60 years ago and because of the material it's made out of it hasn't weathered—it was meant not to," Street told USA Today, adding, "It's definitely an interesting installation."
The monolith's location will remain classified, DPS said, for fear that people will endanger themselves by trying to hike to the isolated structure.
What's not up for debate is the monolith's legal status.
"It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you're from," said DPS in a press release. The federal Bureau of Land Management will determine whether further investigation of the monolith is warranted.
One certainly hopes the origins of the structure are terrestrial. There would be few better ways to sour Earth's reputation in the galaxy than exposing off-planet visitors to the onerous restrictions and red tape we place on the development of federal lands. After all, beings capable of interstellar space travel have almost certainly evolved past the need for such barbaric regulations.