In 2008 a young environmental activist named Tim DeChristopher bid on 13 parcels of land quietly put up for auction by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the waning days of the Bush Administration. This land was part of a larger offering by the BLM of federal public land in an attempt to open it up to oil and gas exploration. The majority of the land was near national parks in southern Utah.
In an effort to derail any number of oil, gas, and mining interests from getting their claws into this land and endangering some of the last great places on earth, DeChristopher risked going to jail to stop it. [Yesterday] afternoon he was found guilty and jail seems more of a potential reality than ever.
That’s Robert Redford writing on HuffPost. He notes, “To donate to the Tim DeChristopher legal defense fund, go to: www.bidder70.org.” DeChristopher, of course, “had no intention of paying the $1.8 million tab he ran up at the auction.”
Guest blogger David Stockbridge Smith has some thoughts on DeChristopher, that I repost below.
Smith is a Climate Hawk, activist green Architect and fledgling organic farmer attempting to live a principled life fully engaged in the battle to curb Anthropogenic Global Warming. You can learn more about hims at stockbridgegreen.com.
Tim DeChristopher sets a new standard for activism in the battle to limit AGW. He is facing a prison sentence of up to ten years, based on two felony charges. The trial involves his participation in an federal oil & gas leasing auction for drilling rights on public lands two years ago, goes to the jury today in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I don’t know Tim personally. I came to know of his plight about a month ago when I happened on a series, 7 short interviews that were posted on solveclimate.com. Tim is a guy, an ordinary guy who went to protest a federal auction and rather than just standing in the crowd, did an extraordinary thing. He went inside. He became a participant in the auction, bidding up prices and eventually winning 10 leases himself for 1.8 million dollars. As it turns out, this act had great consequences.
It took 3-1/2 months for charges to be brought. I guess nobody knew what to do. More important than breaking the law, his actions made a lot of people angry; people who had vested financial interests, powerful people whose representatives were also at this auction, others who were not at the auction who didn’t want a “guy” messing in their private “public” process. It turned out that the auction was illegal and shouldn’t have happened in the first place. The fed’s overturned the results and no one got their leases. I am wondering why no charges have been brought against anyone relative to the illegal nature of the auction and if one reviewed other previous auctions if any might be illegal as well. But, that is beside the point.
Individuals can make a big difference. History is filled with actions of individuals who took great risks. Judging from legal consequences, Tim’s action is among the riskiest in the battle to stem global warming, to date. Tim’s act brought attention to the leasing process and a wrong was made right. He has also set an example of what bold, selfless actions can accomplish in a troubled world. In this case it’s too soon to tell where this will lead, but I am filled with hope. In my world, others who share concerns about AGW will respond to Tim’s gesture. They will become empowered. They will find it impossible to sit still. They will find weaknesses in the operations and strategies of our opponents and strike with precision.
For more information, go to Peaceful Uprising (http://www.peacefuluprising.org/climate-trial), covering the events in Salt Lake City in detail.
– David Stockbridge Smith
And here’s more from Robert Redford:
Part of the statement issued [yesterday] afternoon by U.S. Atty. Carlie Christensen praising the guilty verdict, alluded to DeChristopher’s actions… “disrupting open public processes and causing financial harm to the government and other individuals.” Really?
There’s something wrong with this picture. Major financial institutions in this country brought the nation’s economy to its knees yet not one person associated with the debacle is in jail. The human consequence of their actions is indescribably profound and not one person responsible for any of it went to jail. And yet the federal government prosecuted this young activist’s act of civil disobedience and he now faces jail time.
Every day, oil, gas, mining and other energy and extractive industries are indiscriminately polluting our air, land and water as the new U.S. Congress works diligently to take away the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate their actions and protect the well-being of the nation’s people. There’s something wrong with this picture.
And when you consider that weeks after DeChristopher bid on his 13 parcels, a federal judge in essence agreed with him and blocked the sale of all the parcels, DeChristopher’s prosecution becomes even more troubling. Add to that the fact that the Obama Administration’s Dept of Interior said the overall sale was improper and pulled all the parcels from auction and DeChristopher’s prosecution borders on absurd.
DeChristopher’s defense team was barred from bringing either of these facts to the attention of the jury in arguing their case. There’s something radically wrong with this picture.
To donate to the Tim DeChristopher legal defense fund, go to: www.bidder70.org.