The May/June 2010 issue of E Magazine features a cover story with Tim DeChristopher – a 28 year-old activist from Utah who is facing a possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison and fines up to $750,000. His crime? In 2008, DeChristopher went to an auction that was leasing more than 100,000 acres of federal (i.e. public) land for oil and gas development. The leases were approved in the dying days of the Bush II administration, despite the fact that the land in question bordered Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
Posing as a bidder, DeChristopher won the right to develop 22,500 acres of land for which, of course, he had neither the capability nor the intention of doing. His goal was simply to take the land out of the hands of oil and gas companies.
Despite the fact that officials in the Obama administration subsequently cancelled leases on 77 parcels from the Utah auction, effectively agreeing that the auction should never have gone ahead, DeChristopher is nonetheless being prosecuted for his actions. His trial date is to begin this September in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. For his part, DeChristopher (who has subsequently become recognized as something of an environmental cult hero) says he has no desire to go to jail but he would do the same thing again given the chance.
With this action, Bidder 70, as DeChristopher has become known, represents what seems to be a resurgence in direct action environmental protest, which was such a hallmark of the movement in years gone by but seems to have fallen by the wayside for environmental organizations who have chosen negotiation and compromise as their strategy of choice in recent years.
As we careen toward potentially catastrophic climate change, could this and other such actions represent the beginning of a return to a more radical form of environmental activism? Click the audio player to hear my interview with DeChristopher for CKUT radio. He explains what exactly he did and what motivated him to do it. He also discusses the legal consequences of his protest action and the new organization he has subsequently founded called Peaceful Uprising.
To download the interview, right click here and select ‘Save As’ or ‘Save Target As’.