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Palomar Observatory

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today's editorial - Salt Lake Tribune


soaring©2008 Robert Sommers

Taking a stand

Bidder's act wrong, intent honorable

Tribune Editorial
Posted: 12/29/2008 01:44:01 PM MST

"I think a lot of people are going to become very angry and they're going to resort to illegal methods to try to slow down the destruction of our national resources, our wilderness, our forests, mountains, deserts. What that will lead to I hate to think."
-- Edward Abbey, author and conservationist, in a TV interview, December 1982

We're not going to call Tim DeChristopher a hero.
When the 27-year-old University of Utah student disrupted a Bureau of Land Management sale of drilling leases on 149,000 acres of public land in Utah, he probably was acting outside the law, or at least outside federal rules governing such sales. We don't condone illegal actions.
Still, we understand DeChristopher's frustration with the way the lease sale was planned and conducted. We share his outrage over the promises made by President George W. Bush to open nearly all public lands -- including parcels in sight of national parks, in wildlife habitat, in fragile deserts, archaeological sites and wilderness-quality forests -- to thumper trucks, drilling rigs, bulldozers and constant truck traffic.
We've been critical of the BLM's rush to put these parcels on the auction block without giving the public adequate opportunity to comment or time for those comments to be thoroughly considered. DeChristopher said he took the only effective action that seemed open to him in the brief time left before the BLM sold off the drilling rights.
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It's easy to say that he should have taken his complaints to court, but right up until time for the sale the BLM was revising the list, creating a moving target.
What DeChristopher did in winning bogus bids on land leases and driving up the prices on other parcels may have been illegal. But civil disobedience, based on a principled stand against suspect laws and public processes, sometimes involves taking inappropriate or illegal action in the full knowledge that punishment will follow. DeChristopher said he was willing to go to jail for what he did.
President Bush will be remembered for eight years of disregard for the environment and disdain for hard science on the catastrophic effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. DeChristopher will be remembered for trying to save his heritage from a government bent on taking it from him -- and from all of us.

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