Tim DeChristopher, “Bidder 70,” indicted for standing up for the Earth

by Mike Gaworecki

April 7, 2009

You might recall Tim DeChristopher as the environmental activist and University of Utah economics student who staged an inspired one-man act of civil disobedience last December. When the Bush Admin was auctioning off some of Utah’s most pristine wildlands to oil and gas companies on December 19th, 2008, DeChristopher threw a giant monkeywrench in the process by bidding on several of the parcels even though he had no intention of actually buying them. In the end, DeChristopher won 22,500 acres of land near two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and drove the prices for several other parcels up by thousands of dollars. (This HuffPo piece has more.)

DeChristopher did this with full knowledge of the potential consequences. It was a truly courageous act. He put himself on the line and was willing to take whatever punishment came down, all for the greater cause of protecting our planet and attempting to stop pillagers like oil and gas companies, as well as their allies in the Bush Admin, from prolonging our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

Late last week we got news that DeChristopher has been indicted by a federal grandy jury on two felony counts of “auction-rigging,” as well as being slapped with hefty fines by the U.S. Attorney’s office and by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which ran the auction. Bidder 70 is now facing up to 10 years in prison and over $800,000 in fines for standing up for the Earth at the BLM auction.

But the damage that would be done to Utah’s wildlands and wildlife by oil and gas exploration, compounded by the damage that would be done to the Earth by prolonging our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, far outweighs the damage DeChristopher is alleged to have done by interfering with this reckless auction. For that reason and that reason alone, these charges and fines should be dismissed, if there is any justice in the world.

And then of course there’s the fact that Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, ordered a review of 77 of the parcels auctioned off in December, including all of the parcels “won” by DeChristopher, making those parcels ineligible for lease. If even the Obama Administration thinks these auctions were not proper, what harm can DeChristopher be said to have done whatsoever? He simply used the only means available to him to stand up for what’s right.

You can read more and follow new developments in this story on DeChristopher’s website. And check out this interview he did with Democracy Now!

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