Wednesday, 27 July 2011

DeChristopher's Sentence In Context

Yesterday, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal minimum security prison for disrupting an oil and gas development bid of dubious legality. DeChristopher's crime was to "bog down" the lease process long enough to provide an opportunity to protect wild lands that were being sold off for resource exploitation - a sale that was of questionable legality to begin with*. I would go so far as to say that selling untouched land - for oil and gas development or for housing development - is one of the worst problems in Utah, ranking up there with air pollution.

Paul Rolly, in an excellent column (but then, I've come to expect nothing less from him) makes an interesting point:

So Tim DeChristopher received a sentence of two years in federal prison for his bogus bids that disrupted a BLM auction for oil and gas leases that many environmentalists believed was illegal in the first place. And rabid anti-environmentalist activist Mike Noel has been vocal from the time DeChristopher was charged that he should do time for the criminal act.

But the lawmaker from Kanab hasn’t even received a ticket for his own civil disobedient act of defiance when he led a group of like-minded protestors on an ATV ride up a protected riverbed in southern Utah. Federal officials not only sat by and watched the law-breaking activity, they had videotapes of Noel “inciting” the vandalism.

The same U.S. Attorney’s Office that brought charges against DeChristopher did nothing against Noel and his posse.

It just goes to show that in Utah, some acts of defiance against controversial federal laws are more equal than others.

....this is not to mention the looting of artifacts in Southern Utah, etc. etc. The federal prosecutors in Tim's case are the same people from the same department that hasn't lifted a finger to stop Mike Noel or his buddies from destroying public lands just so they can roar over hills, break each other's necks, and generally act as public nuisances*.

DeChristopher was obviously made an example of. His sentence was not justice - it was an attempt to silence activists. It was the justice system acting as a rancid sock-puppet occupied by the hand of petroleum interests. This was, in short, bullshit.

* - I do have a prejudice against motorized "outdoor" speed sports, whether it's water-skiing or ATVing or dirt-biking, etc. I love to fish, hike, camp, etc. - and the most motorized I get is my dad's bass boat and its trolling motor. If your primary interest is something that goes fast, tears up the ground, and emits clouds of blue smoke, you really need to find somewhere that ISN'T wildnerness to do it in. Maybe we can compromise and build some ATV/bike parks just like urban areas have skate parks. I don' know.

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