John Colson: Hit and Run
Aspen Times Weekly
By now most of you have heard of Tim De Christopher, the environmental activist who late last year snuck into a Bureau of Land Management bidding session for oil and gas leases in Utah and turned the process on its head by “winning” leases for 22,000 acres of land worth $1.8 million.
If you haven’t heard, then a search of his name on the Internet will give you all the details. Suffice it to say he was bidding with oil and gas executives on a total package of nearly 150,000 acres of federal lands, a bonanza for the oil industry that was hustled into action as the Bush administration’s last gift to its corporate backers.
In any event, earlier this month it was reported that, despite the fact that his act of civil disobedience might land him in jail, and that he is a relative pauper, De Christopher has raised $45,000, mostly in small donations from people around the U.S., and plans to make his first payments this month. That is, if the feds let him.
The BLM has yet to announce its position concerning his bids, and the Department of Justice is mulling over charges that, according to the Washington Post, have not been identified for reporters.
Meanwhile, De Christopher, a West Virginia native of 27, is being hailed as a hero by environmentalists everywhere, and rightly so. He has a lawyer, Patrick Shea, who reportedly headed up the BLM during the Clinton administration, and who is said to be trying to convince federal prosecutors to view De Christopher as a political activist with a valid mission rather than a criminal.
After all, legal actions by environmentalists had held up plans to sell off these lands going back at least two years. De Christopher’s move was just a logical extension of the environmentalists’ lawsuits.
At the top of De Christopher’s wish list is the hope that the incoming Obama administration will quash any criminal case against him, and pull the leases off the table for good, along with scaling back many other Bush-spawned initiatives that have put the nation’s public lands in the hands of corporate pirates.
The bogus bidding has, naturally, outraged those same pirates, who had gotten used to having their own huckster in the White House and to using the national treasury and other resources as their own private trove. One BLM spokeswoman was quoted as saying after the controversial guerilla tactic by De Christopher, “If we’d put it up for a vote in the room that day, the other bidders might have put together a lynching party.”
As far as I can tell, the Bush-Cheney cabal has been publicly silent on the matter, although it certainly has figured in their private conversations. I can imagine Dick Cheney condemning De Christopher as an environmental terrorist, and offering to have him shackled and taken to Guantanamo for a little water-boarding and other games if there were time. Thankfully, the time has all but run out.
As for Bush, I’m surprised De Christopher’s act of defiance didn’t come up in the president’s mealy-mouthed farewell address last week. He did his best to cast his eight years of rapacious madness in glowing terms and mythical munificence for the nation as a whole, ignoring the fact that the U.S. Constitution lies in tatters and our federal bureaucracy has been gutted of its ability to protect the citizenry from corporate excess.
For now, De Christopher is ready to ask his donors whether the $45,000 can be used for his legal defense fund if his payment is not accepted by the BLM and the leases are either pulled from the table or go back up for auction at a later date.
I, for one, can think of no better use for the money, and I plan to send him a little more to help out.
Anyone interested in doing the same can go to a special website set up for the purpose by a sympathetic blogger, http://www.bidder70.org, and donate.
De Christopher committed a brave act of defiance against the climate of corporate rule in the U.S., and the least the rest of us can do is help him carry on.
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