Tim DeChristopher aka Bidder 70: Game changer in the fight against global warming

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:”   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

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 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 (, 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:

43 Responses to Tim DeChristopher aka Bidder 70: Game changer in the fight against global warming

  1. paulm says:

    Direct Climate Action now!

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    I met Tim in Nevada City recently, after he gave a speech during an environmental film festival. He inspired all of us, as his demeanor, intelligence, and courage are for real.

    We need more people like him. This is going to be a long struggle, and commitment and sacrifice are part of the package.

  3. Sou says:

    Tim’s story makes me think that America is the home of the brave, but it is no longer the land of the free.

  4. scaz says:

    This is sickening. I want to be active against climate change and when I hear of people everywhere being arrested and actually going to jail for going the right thing it just takes away my hope.

    (Arctic Siberian methane took the other bit of hope…)

  5. Leif says:

    Thank you David for bringing this atrocity back to my attention. I fondly recall reading about Tim’s actions shortly after the fact and then he dropped off my radar.

    My check will be in the mail.

  6. Scrooge says:

    Sign of the times. Fight against Koch heads go to jail. While Clarence Thomas is above the law. I’m sure the puppet masters are raising their glasses over this one.

  7. Susan Anderson says:

    Well, I went over to the donation site, not finished yet, but take a look at the advertisements on the right!!!

    Now Nova is supported by Chevron, Exxon, and – bold and clear – David Koch.

    sigh …

    I got the impression reading about him last year that he was ready to go to jail if he had to – at least his eyes were open. What a hero!

  8. Susan Anderson says:

    In case I created confusion, that ads: “we buy mineral rights” etc., are here:

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo to Tim DeChristopher, to Robert Redford, and to David Stockbridge Smith. Thanks to all of you!

    I agree with Robert Redford: there is something radically wrong with this picture.

    Be Well,


  10. Robert says:

    Susan – I don’t receive those ads. There is clever cookie based software out there that directs ads to people based on their browsing history. I keep getting the same ads for specific products that I have shown an interest in at an online DIY store – they appear on all sorts of sites I visit which are nothing at all to do with DIY!

  11. Zetetic says:

    If Obama wants to show a sign that he actually does care about the environment, and isn’t just paying it “lip service”, then this might be a good case for a Presidential Pardon.

    But, I’m not holding my breath…

  12. Anne says:

    I’ve been tracking the DeChristopher monkey wrench story since Day One, when it happened, and reached out to him to offer assistance, “met” Patrick Shea (former BLM, attorney) in the process, and Jim Hansen entered the scene a few months ago to offer support for the argument that Tim felt he had no other choice. This defense was rejected by the court, a real shame. BLM’s actions leading up to the sale were abominable, as they were in a rush to seal deals during the waning hours of the Bush administration. Tim is a true “folk hero” worthy of his own song written by the ghost of Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, and deserves to be treated with respect, not thrown in jail. Sentencing, I believe, occurs in June. Anyone remotely concerned about climate change and the public faces doing something proactive need to come to Tim’s defense, with financial and moral support, screaming and yelling for justice, going to the streets and banging pots if necessary, a la Molly Ivins. Tim: we’ve got your back!

  13. Jeffrey Davis says:

    What is the crime he’s accused of?

  14. catman306 says:

    A Presidential Pardon AND a Presidential Medal of Honor for Mr. DeChristopher, who is showing us a new way. Really rub their faces in it. ‘Their’ means the political gang stalkers that ‘go after’ those who would reveal the truth about the financial wrong doings that are destroying our environment and stealing taxpayers money in the process.

  15. Mike Roddy says:


    A presidential pardon is a great idea, because you never know what local
    courts will do, especially in a state like Utah.

    Anybody remember the Caltech grad student who was busted for torching Hummers on a dealer’s lot in the middle of the night? He got something like a 25 year sentence as an “ecoterrorist”. And that was in California!

  16. Those are ads by google. They are based on key words, and they change with each visit to the site.

    Once, I wrote an article opposing a high-rise in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I found that the page had ads selling real estate in St. Petersburg, Florida.

  17. I don’t understand this. Is it illegal for an individual to bid in a federal auction? What did he do to warrant jail time. Please clarify!

    [JR: You aren’t supposed to bid in any auction if you don’t intend to pay. I added a sentence.]

  18. David Smith says:

    I read somewhere that DeChristopher tried to make arrangements to pay for the leases but this effort was rejected. I am wondering that if there were legal issues significant enough to have the feds nullify (or whatever) the auction, why is no one being brought up on charges for those laws that were broken?

  19. climate undergrad says:

    Tim Dechristopher had the balls to do what so many of us wish we could.

    21st century Rosa Parks. (Hanson as MLK?)

  20. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I live in Utah and have been following this since day one and also contributed to his legal fund. It’s a real travesty of justice and is also very very typical of the PTB in the Beehive state, which is pretty much still run by a dominant and weird corporate cult full of some of the most rabid conservative power mongers on earth.

    I really admire Tim, but many activists here long ago conceded the fight on the level he’s at, of being open and honest. Any more, if you don’t want to go to prison in Utah, you have to fight undercover.

  21. MarkF says:

    he’s a remarkable man, a hero to me.

    and, dont count on Obama to do what’s right.

    By the way any charges yet in the gulf of mexico spill that killed 14 people? No? What a surprise.

    not only are there no charges, but the culprit BP just got a new deepwater drilling permit.

    Corruption is deep and widespread.

  22. Ian says:

    Hey everyone,

    I was at the first day of Tim’s trial. He and everyone he works with are super cool. Joe, I hope you are right that this is a game changer.

    I put together a video from when I was there:


  23. Robert says:

    In the panel on the right of this CP page I have a UK site trying to flog me some sort of power drill. It follows me everywhere I go. Very irritating. Mental note – never buy anything from them again…

  24. Peter Sergienko says:

    As a lesson in power, this illustrates the importance of cohesive group action. Mr. DeChristopher’s actions were heroic, but it’s relatively easy for the government to prosecute and jail a single person in a case like this. Imagine the difficulty of prosecuting and jailing hundreds or thousands of protesters disrupting questionable sales such as this by exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. We have strength in numbers and must organize and act as if we do.

  25. John Mason says:

    “Sou says:
    March 4, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Tim’s story makes me think that America is the home of the brave, but it is no longer the land of the free.”

    Aye – it is a land where the word “freedom” has been phenomenally abused. Freedom for a minority elite to screw the living daylights out of everyone else, maybe. One rule for “them”, another for “us”.

    Your First Nation folk know this all to well, and our history likewise goes way back, to when the First Colony of the British Empire was… England. Since we Brits have had to cope with the same shite this past 2000 years, one might think something really radical may be needed. How about a mass-outbreak of Altruism? Heck, that would be nice!

    Cheers – John

  26. OK, so here’s an idea. Environmental groups can raise money to participate in the auctions. Depending how the auction mechanism is structured, they can at least drive up the price of the leases by bidding. If they win some, they can just hold onto them and not develop them. I’ve heard of this being done for emissions permits but it could work here, as well. Depends on how the rules of the auction are written. Any experts here who can comment on this idea?

  27. Anne says:

    Tim speaks out after the guilty verdict.

    Thanks to Lizzie for posting on Facebook.

  28. Timeslayer says:


    For the love of God man, don’t call it “global warming.” It’s CLIMATE CHANGE.

    Unusually harsh winters do not feel like “global warming” to the average American, even though they ARE effects of climate change.

    I’ve been making this point to people since researching and publishing a 45-page article on climate change in 2006. “Global warming” is a woefully misleading term that hampers our ability to effectively communicate to the public the fact that ALL of these weird changes in the weather we’re seeing are effects of anthropogenic CLIMATE CHANGE.

    Really guys, if we at Climate Progress – who are as aware as anyone in the US about what we’re facing – cannot even get on the same page about what to call this thing, that REALLY does not bode well for our future as a civilization.


  29. Peter Sergienko says:

    @ Jonathan #27: I had the same thought. I’m an environmental lawyer and have worked with conservation groups that function like this, particularly with a group here in Oregon that purchases consumptive water rights and leaves them in-stream to preserve and protect salmonid habitat. The ability to do this is framed by legal requirements. This may also be true for BLM oil and gas lease auctions, but I have no experience with this process. If ongoing auctions are a continuing concern and conservation groups can legally participate in them, however, I think it’s a good strategy.

  30. Raleigh Latham says:

    EVERYONE has to listen to Tim’s speech, it brought tears to my eyes, and a perspective on what should be the purpose of everyone’s live. Truth shines brightest when surrounded by darkness, and we need to be the fist which punches through the lies of the Koch Brothers.

  31. Zetetic says:

    @ Timeslayer:
    Respectfully, there are a few problems I see with that argument.

    1) AGW deniers want people to use the term “climate change” because it’s easier to twist around (as noted below at #2) and because it let’s them compartmentalize the problem more readily. In fact the Republican spin doctor Frank Luntz specifically suggested that the Republican use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming”.
    From Frank Luntz’s own strategy for Republicans…

    “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotation attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

    2) Climate Change can also mean an Ice Age which plenty of denialists are trying to convince everyone is already happening. or it could be used to imply that it’s just part of a natural cycle.

    3) What is it that we hear from a denialist when someone mentions “climate change”? “I thought it was supposed to be ‘warming’, now it’s just ‘change’?“.

    4) The term “climate change” has the disadvantage of not being specific about who is responsible for the change. That’s why I prefer the term “Anthropogenic Global Warming”, or AGW for short. Although “Anthropogenic Climate Change” is almost as good, IMO.

    5) When it’s hot it’s easy for people to associate AGW with the weather, “climate change” comes off as too neutral to be associated with the heat. When they complain about the unusual cold weather, I use it as an opportunity to explain how they have been mislead about what AGW is, and to explain what has been happening to the Arctic ice.

    6) The term “global warming” isn’t misleading since that is what is happening on the basis of the long term global temperature averages.

    At least that’s my opinion.

  32. John Mason says:

    @ Timeslayer,

    Personally I find “Climate Destabilisation” a far more evocative term in view of what’s going on :)

    Cheers – John

  33. Timeslayer says:

    @ Zetetic & John Mason

    I appreciate both of your thoughts on this subject.

    Addressing Zetetic’s points:

    1) I know all about this, but I don’t think that our choice of words should be affected, one way or another, by what a Republican spin doctor says.


    You’re right that we have to make clear that it’s greenhouse pollution from human activity that is causing climate change. In my first post, I did say “anthropogenic climate change,” to make clear that we are causing it.

    But I don’t think we need to say “anthropogenic” every time we say “climate change”, although of course we do need to always make it clear, whenever there is any dispute, that it is caused by human activity. I’m sure many Americans don’t know what the word anthropogenic means anyway.

    “Climate change” is a pithy and concise three-syllable term (“anthropogenic” adds five). To me, “climate change” evokes what I see happening every day, which is that the climate has changed from what it was when I was younger to something very different, where, for example, 40 or 50 degree temperature swings can happen within 24 hours. Therefore, I think it’s a term that makes sense to people because it reflects their personal experiences. It’s also of course the term used by the IPCC, the world authority on the science of climate change.

    3) See my response above to “1)”. Hardcore denialists, with very few exceptions, are idiots, and will never understand the truth. Don’t bother with them at all; it’s a waste of time, unless you can use the opportunity of cutting them down to enlighten people who are not idiots, but might just not yet understand the facts.

    4) See my response to “2)”, in which I address this issue.

    5) Yes, “global warming” works when climate change causes extremely hot weather, but it UTTERLY FAILS when it causes extremely cold weather, which has happened quite a bit around the world in the last three years. You say that you use such opportunities to tell people about “how they have been mislead” about what climate change is. The problem is that WE have been doing some of the misleading. “Climate change” captures it all and is NOT MISLEADING. Therefore we should call it climate change.

    6) I know that the global temperature is rising, of course – but I’m also sure that many Americans are not tracking the global average surface temperature every year (nor can the media be bothered to give this fact the coverage it deserves), so the fact that “global warming” is consistent with that, while a good thing in itself, is far outweighed by how misleading it is as a term for anthropogenic climate change.

    Re: John Mason’s suggestion of “climate destabilization”: I’ve thought about something like this (because of course the climate IS now destabilized), but that’s eight syllables instead of three, and for the reasons I explained above, I really think “climate change” is a better term, even regardless of its length.

    “Climate change”.


  34. Mike Roddy says:

    “Global Warming”, not “Climate Change”. Let’s trust Luntz here, he’s good at what he does- manipulating the public.

  35. David Smith says:

    I was hoping for a little more discussion of civil disobedience, the opportunities and the implications that it might present for neutralizing the opposition.

  36. Anna Haynes says:

    re David Smith #37’s “hoping for a little more discussion of civil disobedience, the opportunities and the implications…” – IMO that would be a good topic for a Weekend Focused Thread – Joe?

  37. Roger says:

    Kudos to Tim. We’ve had the honor of meeting him, and of contributing to his defense. We need more men and women of action to save our souls.

    And, please, let’s stop arguing about what to call climate death, and get more active in doing something to motivate our leaders to act NOW!

    Check out this brand new website: If enough of us climate hawks pick up on this idea, and are able to realize its full potential, we could get what we want (real climate progress) real soon.

  38. Timeslayer says:

    @ Mike Roddy

    Speaking for myself, and I hope many other people in our cause, I don’t want to manipulate the public, I want us to educate them. And I don’t think that what Frank Lutz says or has said matters at all in this endeavor, as I stated above in my reply to Zetetic and John Mason.

    If you have any comments on my reasoning for why I think “climate change” is a far better term than “global warming”, I would sincerely like to hear them.

    As I said in my initial post: at this late stage of the game, the fact we are STILL using the woefully misleading and underinclusive term “global warming” to describe anthropogenic climate change, and thus failing to get through to people who might otherwise be able to help us, is EXTREMELY problematic, and to me, extremely frustrating.


  39. David Smith says:

    Personally, IMO it’s a lot easier to argue about a name than to actually figure out what to do, collectively and do it.

    One could argue, that the problem isn’t about warming this or changing that. The problem is one of human behavior and I am not sure what you call it. We like what we have and we don’t want to change and we do what we can to rationalize this to ourselves, some of us on a daily basis. Others try to think about it as little as possible.

    Fossil fuels don’t cause global warming, climate change or popcorn-7 (whatever you call it). It’s people, who insist on burning fossil fuels.

  40. Zetetic says:

    @ Timeslayer:
    I’m sorry but IMO you still haven’t made a good case for your instance on the term “climate change” to the exclusion of other terms.

    but I don’t think that our choice of words should be affected, one way or another, by what a Republican spin doctor says

    I find it odd that you say that you want us to use the term “climate change” (and avoid using “global warming”) due to it’s effect on the public’s perception, but at the same time you conclude that we shouldn’t care about what the Republican party’s professional spin-doctors say when they are speaking to exactly the same strategy. I find that to be contradictory.

    Hardcore denialists, with very few exceptions, are idiots, and will never understand the truth. Don’t bother with them at all; it’s a waste of time, unless you can use the opportunity of cutting them down to enlighten people who are not idiots, but might just not yet understand the facts.

    I agree completely, but as I pointed out earlier, that is exactly what the Republicans are trying to do when they insist on using the term “climate change” too, trying to persuade those that haven’t firmly decided on a side yet. The problem is that for many people the term “climate change” is so neutral and vague that it can be twisted to mean anything.

    but it UTTERLY FAILS when it causes extremely cold weather, which has happened quite a bit around the world in the last three years.

    Here you only seem to be paying attention only to the cold weather and ignoring the record heatwaves and droughts around much of the world. It’s especially odd to focus on cold weather in winter as a reason to avoid using the term “global warming” when the reason for the extreme winter weather in many places is due to the accelerated warming effect in the arctic.

    The problem is that WE have been doing some of the misleading. “Climate change” captures it all and is NOT MISLEADING.

    The term “global warming” only superficially seems misleading if you don’t know what it actually refers to, as I had already pointed out earlier. The problem with the term “climate change” is that it is so neutral that it doesn’t really mean anything specific at all. It’s like saying “He feels ill.” instead of saying “He has the flu virus.”. Both terms are technically correct, but one is more specific about what the problem is and what can be done about it (contagious, avoid contact).

    but I’m also sure that many Americans are not tracking the global average surface temperature every year

    Which gets right back to why the Republicans prefer the term “climate change” too. Since it can also be misleading used to refer to an ice age (especially with the cold weather that you keep focusing on) or a more gradual natural cycle.

    is far outweighed by how misleading it is as a term for anthropogenic climate change.

    You keep saying this, but how exactly is the term “global warming” misleading in the context of what the term actually means (an increase in the global average temperatures over a long term trend)? There nothing in the term that rules out cold weather, it simply speaks to the long term average trend. If someone else doesn’t understand what the term means, then it’s because that person needs to be better informed, it doesn’t make the term “misleading”.

    I’ve thought about something like this (because of course the climate IS now destabilized), but that’s eight syllables instead of three

    Respectfully, I think that maybe you are focused too much on counting syllables and not how others perceive the terms in question on a more emotional level.

    What matters is whether, or not, when people hear the term do they feel like there is a problem and a need to do something about it? That the term “climate change” is so neutral that it doesn’t evoke those sentiments is why the Republican prefer that we use “climate change”.


    Perhaps a better question might be what evidence do you have that the term “climate change” will have a positive effect on the public’s approach to AGW? As far as I know of the only research done so far seems to support the denialist/delayist position that “climate change” causes people to take the issue less seriously.

    I don’t see how it is productive to be helping the Republicans (and other denialists/delayists) with encouraging inaction.