Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Man Of The Year: Grad Student Who "Monkey-Wrenched" Give-Away Energy Auction

(image above: Bryce National Park, Utah. Photo by Ron Niebrugge)
On Friday, December 19th, the BLM kicked off a hotly disputed oil- and gas-lease auction of public lands in Southern Utah near Arches, the White River, the Desolation/Green River region, Canyonlands, Nine Mile Canyon, the Book Cliffs, and Deep Creek Mountains. It had been organized, and pushed through as a parting gidt to the Busheviks' loyal owners and managers in the energy industry.

One man decided to screw it up. He's the recipient of

Barack Obama's election ends an eight-year nightmare, but progressive change will only occur if individuals make change happen from the bottom up.

Tim DeCristopher did just that when he threw a monkey wrench into an anti-conservation U.S. Bureau of Land Management auction of federal lands for oil and gas development in Utah. In fact, DeCristopher is just a university student, but he decided that it was time for creative action.

So he registered as a bidder and managed to win the rights to 10 parcels and bid up other leases to cause chaos on behalf of preserving Southwestern unspoiled public desert land.

For his efforts, DeCristopher is facing federal charges -- and a large bill for the parcels that he was the highest bidder on.

But he's not repentant: "I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience," he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. "There comes a time to take a stand."

Yes, indeed there does. Sometimes the talking has to stop and the innovative "doing" has to begin. Mahatma Gandhi knew that -- and so does Tim DeCristopher.

For that, DeCristopher merits this week's BuzzFlash Wings of Justice Award, and our best wishes as he squares off with potential prosecution for his act of civil disobedience.
Even the MSM were impressed, though cautiously so. Here's the Salt Lake City Tribune:
Taking a stand
Bidder's act wrong, intent honorable
Tribune Editorial
Updated: 12/29/2008 01:44:12 PM MST
"I think a lot of people are going to become very angry and they're going to resort to illegal methods to try to slow down the destruction of our national resources, our wilderness, our forests, mountains, deserts. What that will lead to I hate to think."
-- Edward Abbey, author and conservationist, in a TV interview, December 1982
We're not going to call Tim DeChristopher a hero.

When the 27-year-old University of Utah student disrupted a Bureau of Land Management sale of drilling leases on 149,000 acres of public land in Utah, he probably was acting outside the law, or at least outside federal rules governing such sales. We don't condone illegal actions.

Still, we understand DeChristopher's frustration with the way the lease sale was planned and conducted. We share his outrage over the promises made by President George W. Bush to open nearly all public lands -- including parcels in sight of national parks, in wildlife habitat, in fragile deserts, archaeological sites and wilderness-quality forests -- to thumper trucks, drilling rigs, bulldozers and constant truck traffic.

We've been critical of the BLM's rush to put thesejavascript:void(0) parcels on the auction block without giving the public adequate opportunity to comment or time for those comments to be thoroughly considered. DeChristopher said he took the only effective action that seemed open to him in the brief time left before the BLM sold off the drilling rights.
There's more, most of which is adulatory. Meanwhile, another blogger put it this way:
Despite my cynicism toward contemporary activism, a University of Utah student has temporarily restored my faith. 27-year-old Tim DeChristopher infiltrated a controversial land auction (i.e., Christmas present from the Bush Administration), in which oil and gas drilling rights were being sold to nearly 150,000 acres of Utah wilderness. DeChristopher had seen environmental activists protesting outside of the auction, but decided that something more needed to be done. After finishing a final exam, he found his way into the auction, grabbed a paddle, and started to bid. Before federal agents had the chance to intercept, DeChristopher had purchased over 22,000 acres of land.

A vanilla version of the story was published in the New York Times, but for the real deal, check out DeChristopher’s interview with Democracy Now!.
By ALL MEANS, read/listen to the Democracy Now interview! DeChristopher still faces Federal charges. A fund for his defense has been set up here.