In case you were wondering. We've seen these "art installations" all over the parks we visit. And while every once in a while one seems slightly charming, the absolute epidemic of stacked rocks all over the place has quickly become a real eyesore.
When we were hiking on our recent trip to the Southwest, we noted this very clear sign that made it apparent: stacked rocks are graffiti. This is especially important in the Southwest, where geoglyphs and other rock installations can be thousands of years old, and indicate real archeological importance. Scrawling all over that with your own clever creations is graffiti, nothing more or less.
I somewhat agree with you based on an LNT philosophy but I think it is a bit extreme to call three rocks stacked in a cairn or other small arrangement of stone graffiti. Some parks allow you to pan for gold or collect a small amount of seashells. LNT is a bit extreme language for what is really a philosophical goal (with some concrete rules depending on where you are). I would rather use graffiti for actual destruction to our parks which does happen on a frighteningly regular basis. In terms of moving rocks, I would call this abhorrently destructive:
Loc: Portland, OR
I wouldn't want to use similar language to describe someone trying to help others find a trail.
I do not equate the kind of rock stacking being discussed here with making a rock cairn as a trail marker.
This new fad of rock stacking has no functional purpose, other than to display how cleverly you can balance rocks on top of each other. It's a bit like making sand castles at the beach, except the tide doesn't come in twice a day to erase your handiwork as if it never existed. They last.
Cairns marking trails have a valuable function where the trail would not otherwise be apparent. They are built to last, but not as monuments to one person's ego.
I've been thinking a bit more about this. I somewhat agree with this as a PR campaign to get people to think more about there actions and not fill up the southwest with "Rock Art". I definitely agree the actual ecological destruction (digging up river beds for rocks to stack) needs to stop. I still think there are more pressing needs in our national parks than stacked rocks. I view this rock stacking like loud music in the parking lot. I find it annoying and inappropriate, but if you pick up after yourself you don't come anywhere near the top 10% of worst offenders in our NPs.