Utne Blogs > Environment

Environmental Activist Needs Bailout

by Chelsey Perkins 


Tags: Environment, Bureau of Land Management, land auction, civil disobedience, Tim DeChristopher, Daily Kos, Gristmill Blog, Bush administration,

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is continuing on its path of environmental destruction up to the last moment, and the exploitation of public land in the West is no exception. There is a story of hope to be gleaned from the devastation, however.

Last month, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher prevented oil and gas companies from purchasing and developing 22,500 acres of public land in Utah by posing as a buyer at a Bureau of Land Management auction. He also successfully forced the bids up for other land, costing the companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Problem is, DeChristopher does not actually have the $1.8 million he bid, and the initial payment of $45,000 required to secure the land is due today. The Daily Kos and the Gristmill blog are encouraging readers to donate to the cause, and according to bidder70.org, the website set up in support of DeChristopher’s actions, $41,271 had been raised as of January 7.

DeChristopher risked more than massive debt with his civil disobedience. He faces jail time if he is unable to procure the funds to preserve the land. So why did he do it?

In his own words:

What I did no doubt puts me at significant risk, including prison. But my future was already at significant risk. As we get closer and closer to the point of too late, we have less and less to lose from resisting. Accepting the true depth of the climate crisis is extremely scary, but the purpose of fear is to motivate us to action. Many of us have sat around countless times saying how much we needed someone to do something. If I am not willing to take a stand for my generation, then who will? This year I have come to terms with the idea that I might be my own best hope to defend my future. Hopefully all of us will realize that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

On a related note, the Colorado Independent is reporting that a group including the Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club intends to sue the Bureau of Land Management for “midnight regulations.” The regulations set royalty rates for oil companies wishing to purchase land for oil shale production on public lands, and the group believes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should have been in on the rule making in order to highlight possible threats to endangered species by the fossil fuel extraction.

UPDATE (1/12/09): DeChristopher raised the $45,000 necessary to make the down payment. He is now waiting to find out if the Bureau of Land Management will accept the payment as legitimate, which will ultimately depend on the incoming administration’s philosophy. See DeChristopher's letter on the fundraising accomplishment, and also check out the Washington Post's profile of him.