Activist Tim DeChristopher Convicted of Two Felonies

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was convicted yesterday of two felony counts. DeChristopher was on trial for bidding on more than 22,000 acres of public land that he could not pay for: his two crimes are making false representations to the government and interfering with the land auction.

DeChristopher made the $1.79 million bid in order to “do something to try to resist the climate crisis,” he told Tina Gerhardt, in an interview published by AlterNet. But, as Kate Sheppard explains at Mother Jones, the judge threw out “the defense that his actions were necessary to prevent environmental damage on this land and, more broadly, the exacerbataion of climate change.”

“They’re hoping to make an example out of me.”

DeChristoper now faces the possibility of a $75,000 fine and 10 years in prison. In an interview with YES! Magazine‘s Brooke Jarvis, before the trial started, DeChristopher said he had faced the possibility that he would be found guilty.

“There is still the possibility of acquittal, but I think the most likely scenario is probably that I will be convicted,” he told Jarvis. “The prosecution has been very clear that they’re hoping to make an example out of me, to convince other people not to fight the status quo.”

Wild lands

What is the status quo? Bureau of Land Management land, like the parcel DeChristopher bid on, is owned by the government, which often leases out the rights to develop the natural resources, like gas and oil, to private companies.

Up until 2003, the Department of the Interior had the option of setting aside some of its lands for preservation, pending final Congressional approval. But during the Bush administration, the DOI gave up that option and only considered uses like recreation or development for its holdings.

Back in December, the current Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, reversed that policy, again putting on the table the option of using public lands for conservation purposes. But as I write at TAPPED, Republicans are throwing a hissy fit about the change.

Truth or consequence?

The Republicans’ argument goes something like: Using public lands for conservation will deprive Americans of jobs and hurt the bottom lines of states with large tracts of public lands. What they don’t discuss is the potential damage that drilling for, say, natural gas could cause. The Media Consortium has been writing about the dangers of hydrofracking for a while now, but over the past week The New York Times began weighing in on the issue with a long series on the dangers of hydrofracking.

The Times‘ series brings even more evidence of hydrofracking’s dangers to light- in particular, about the radioactive waste materials being dumped into rivers where water quality is rarely monitored. As Christopher Mims reports at Grist, the series has already prompted calls for new testing from people like John Hanger, the former head of Pennsylvania’s environmental protection department, which has not been among the staunchest opponents of new drilling protects. According to Mims, Hanger has written that:

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should order today all public water systems in Pennsylvania to test immediately for radium or radioactive pollutants and report as soon as good testing allows the results to the public. Only testing of the drinking water for these pollutants can resolve the issue raised by the NYT.

Or, as Mims puts it, “No one has any idea if the radioactive material in the wastewater from fracking is appearing downstream, in drinking water supplies, in quantities in excess of EPA recommendations.”

Tar and feather ‘em

Fracking is not the only environmentally destructive practice that the energy industry is increasingly relying on. Earth Island Journal has two pieces looking into the tar sands industry in Canada. Jason Mark’s piece is a great introduction to the history of the tar sands and takes a sharp look into the impact development has had on the community and the environment.

And Ron Johnson details the U.S.’s connection to the destruction: The federal government is considering approving a pipeline that would allow the oil from the tar sands to travel to Texas refineries. Johnson writes:

Green groups warn that the pipelines will keep North America and emerging economies hooked on oil from the Alberta tar sands for years to come. By greasing the crude’s path to market, the projects will encourage further reckless expansion of the tar sands. That would delay the transition to a renewable energy economy, while further degrading Canada’s boreal forests and spewing even more CO2 into the atmosphere.

A new regime

The decision to approve the pipeline lies with the executive branch. But all of Washington isn’t a particularly friendly place to green groups and their causes these days.

For example, as Care2′s Beth Buczynski reports, the newly empowered House Republicans have done away with one of the smallest green programs the Democrats put into place, an initiative to compost waste from House cafeterias. They’ve justified the cut by saying it was “too expensive,” but as Buczynski writes, “Spending must be dramatically reduced, yes, but also strategically. It’s interesting (and disheartening) to see which programs the new GOP House has targeted first.”

It’s a small thing, but it shows how committed Republicans are to the status quo: They’re not even willing to mulch their leftover salad.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

Photo courtesy of sandman via Flickr
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger


Brian F.
Brian F6 years ago

The greedy republican liars who support the expansion of natural gas drilling on our western lands are the ones who should be put in prison. The fracking process of natural gas extraction, involves pumping toxic chemicals into the ground that can leach into our drinking water causing cancer and death to those who drink the water. Also the destruction of our scenic landscape by the ugly blight of natural gas drilling rigs, all across our western lands is sad. Republicans are the lowest form of scum on the face of this earth, a people who care only about money, and would sell our precious natural lands to natural gas companies to allow them to drill, frack, and contaminate our water supply and poison our air, all for the money that they will get illegally from natural gas companies as a bribe. This man is a hero and should be given a medal, and not prison, for trying to protect our precious western lands from the absolute destruction caused by natural gas fracking.

Charles Y.
Charles Yheaulon6 years ago

Frack it frack it all. The oil co. are going to kill the ocean to make a buck so let the frackers kill the land......anything for a buck;it's the new American way.

Sue Matheson
Sue M6 years ago

thanks for this post

adriana j.
adriana j6 years ago

Shocker: Bush and the republicans HATE the environment... this is very sad. i agree with him in that they probably want to make him into an example. Witchhunting always, no?

Christine D.

It's too bad he didn't have any backing to raise the needed funds to buy the land...I would have given to this...

marcel fallous
marcel f6 years ago

La justice des fois n'est pas claire,des criminels ont été blanchis ou acquité,d'autres innocents on passés sur
la chaise électrique.

Peter B.
Peter B.6 years ago

A tough one. We shouldn't really abuse normal commercial processes, irrespective of the 'cause'. It paves the way for abuse of or fraud for all manner of normal rules and regulations and processes - then where do you stop? However ther eshould be the means of addressing environmental issues hopefully without having to resort to things like this. It's to be hoped that thepenalty will be fair and minor.

Marie H.
Marie H6 years ago

He is only trying to help the worlds Eco System.
I hope he does not spend endless years in jail.
Another person suffering in justice when Fraudsters go scott free

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

sadly noted..... good luck to you Mr. DeChristopher.

Carmen n.
Carmen n6 years ago

A petition for what? Free him? Don't hold your breath. We're living in a country where heros and whistleblowers are treated like dirt, while mega polluters get to buy their way into legislation in their favor. BTW, does anyone know the current status of Leonard Peltier? Is he alive? Dead? Forgotten?

Thus is the fate of our real heroes.