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The Boomers "Failed" Us: Climate Activist Tim DeChristopher on Anger, Love, and Sacrifice

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

On the morning of December 19, 2008, Tim DeChristopher woke up knowing he would somehow protest an auction of oil and gas leases on federal lands in Utah's red rock country. How he would make his views known, though, was a mystery. When an official at the auction asked him if he was there to bid on land parcels, he agreed. That seemed like a good place to start.

At first, he bid on parcels to increase their prices-it didn't seem right to him that the leases were going for as little as $2 an acre. But after more than half the leases had been acquired by oil and gas companies, he began bidding to win. He acquired the rights to 14 parcels-a total of 22,500 acres for $1.8 million-before he was escorted out of the auction, and held and questioned by federal officials.

His civil disobedience galvanized activists concerned about the climate crisis and the fate of public wilderness lands. Some, including members of his Unitarian Universalist Church, formed the climate justice action group Peaceful Uprising.

On April 1, 2009, DeChristopher was indicted on two felony counts: interfering with a federal oil and gas leasing auction and making false statements. He pled not guilty on both counts and rejected the offer of a plea bargain, so he faced 10 years in prison and a fine of $750,000. His supporters raised cash to cover the first payment on the leases he'd won. The auction of those lands-initiated under the Bush Administration-was later ruled illegal and rescinded. But DeChristopher was found guilty. He served 21 months in prison and paid a fine of $10,000. He was released in April 2013 and is now attending Harvard Divinity School.     


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