Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A new kind of environmental hero

Environmentalists recently added a new hero to their list: Tim DeChristopher. But, according to the Feds, Tim may be a criminal.

Tim DeChristopher
Tim's transgression was not a Monkey Wrench Gang-style act of eco-terrorism or any other act of violence in the name of the environment. Nobody got hurt or wronged. But somebody did get duped--the Bureau of Land Management.

Two years ago, when the Bush administration was coming to a close, the BLM tried to rush large pieces of land off to auction for oil and gas drilling leases. In an effort to prevent drilling development, Tim--then a University of Utah graduate student--attended the auction. On a whim, he joined as Bidder 70 and successfully bid on 22,500 acres of land in southern Utah (clearly with no intention to drill), saving it from its dreadful fate. The only problem: he didn't have the money. His act of peaceful civil disobedience came with a price tag he didn't plan for--$1.7 million and possible jail time.

You can read one of Tim's personal statements about his actions here.

Apparently his act of peace was in violation of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act and is considered a felony, because he interfered with and made false representations at a government auction. His trial started February 28. You can follow his trial and learn much more about his story on PeacefulUprising.org

Ironically, the Obama administration later deemed the BLM auction illegal, because it violated the Secretarial Order 3226, a law mandating that the Department of Interior, which includes the BLM, must take into account potential climate change impacts on all major decisions involving resource extraction (i.e. more oil and gas = more greenhouse gases = more climate change). Unfortunately this did not absolve Tim from his "crime."

Tim sets an empowering example to citizen activists, to say the least. It is terribly twisted that he be reprimanded for a peaceful act he committed for the betterment of the world, but it is hopeful to know there are people, like him, bold enough to take such action. I hope his jury listens to their voices of reason and recognizes the bigger picture of what he set out to do.

Read more here and here.


  1. This is a really interesting case, Jenny. It seems to me like just another sad example of how logic doesn't get incorporated into law. It seems to me that someone breaking the law at and event that itself breaks the law should just be absolved.

  2. I agree completely. This seems outrageous to me. Do you know if the BLM faced any repercussions for hold an illegal auction?

  3. I remember hearing about this. It takes people like this to shine the light on injustice. Hopefully he won't be ruined in the process, although he might have made his career! Have any thoughts on advocacy journalism?

  4. Very interesting. If the auction itself was illegal, it's silly to uphold the crime.

    I wonder if more environmental groups will get in on this form of protest.

    I agree with Joe, you have the perspective of a great advocacy journalist :)

  5. @Amy - I don't know what repercussions BLM faced, if any. But that's something to look into, for sure.

    @Joe - I think advocacy journalism definitely has an important place, especially if the journalism is based in facts. I think there need to be writers out there telling the real stories about issues that adversely affect a lot of people in order to not just generate awareness, but also to incite peaceful action. Your thoughts on it?