Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Hats Go Off to Direct Action

Tim DeChristopher, real auction hero

By Travis Custer, WilderPress! Issue #1

Ok, so I know the news is a little old, but we wouldn’t be able to release the first issue without paying our dues to Tim DeChristopher and his successful battle against the Bush Administration, and their final attempts at ecological destruction in the American West. For those not quite sure what I’m talking about, I am speaking about the December auction of around 150,000 acres of Utah Wilderness that was thrown to the block for oil and gas bidders to seize for development and exploration. Many described the selling of some of Utah’s most pristine areas, including land around Arches National Park, Labyrinth Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Dinosaur Monument, and a handful of other pristine areas in southeastern Utah, as, “Bush’s last gift to the oil and gas industry”. Like many of us who treasure these areas for their natural beauty, spiritual power, and as simply a place to escape, DeChristopher was having a difficult time choking down the reality that oil wells may soon be popping up in the sacred red rock country. Beyond the destruction of the natural beauty the leases, if developed, threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Colorado Plateau as well.

According to Democracy Now! and other sources, the BLM had failed to even analyze the environmental impact on water and air of around 2,300 wells that have popped up since 2004, and had not come any closer to assessing the impact of the estimated 6,300 wells that were written into the current land auction plan. One of the greatest threats comes in developing land for oil, gas, and uranium exploration around the banks of the once mighty, now tamed, Colorado River. The Colorado River which, according to High Country News, “powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation’s crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans,” is now threatened by, “a rush to develop”.

In response to this unjustified destruction of wild lands DeChristopher left his University of Utah class after finishing a final exam and ran down to the BLM auction with the intent of protesting the sales. However, upon arriving DeChristopher realized that he had to do more. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune he stated, “I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience…There comes a time to take a stand. What the environmental movement has been doing for the past 20 years hasn’t worked…its time for a conflict. There’s a lot at stake.”

So instead of walking the protest lines, as he had done so many times before, DeChristopher decided to take more direct action and really throw a wrench into the works. He posed as a self-represented bidder and registered with the BLM to enter to the auction. After making it inside he mustered up the courage and began to bid on parcels of land. DeChristopher began to buy up numerous parcels, and the ones he didn’t win he drove the price up on; some leases were raised as much as $500,000 dollars before being purchased by legitimate oil and gas buyers. Before federal agents and auction officials caught on to what was happening DeChristopher had purchased 22,000 acres of public land including areas in Arches National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.

DeChristopher was hauled off by federal agents and questioned about his intent and actions. According to an interview with DeChristopher, by Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, while in custody he explained to the feds, “I was very clear about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I told them all my motivations and why the environmental movement, as it’s been, and myself included, hasn’t been effective and why I felt it was necessary to take more drastic actions.” In a surprise turn of events Patrick Shea, former director of the BLM, offered to represent DeChristopher’s legal team, and to do so free of charge. Currently no charges have been filed against DeChristopher and a flood of donations by supportive citizens dedicated to protecting these wild lands has provided enough money (around $45,000) to allow DeChristopher to make the first payment on the land he purchased. In addition, on January 17th, Federal Judge Ricardo M. Urbina sided with conservation groups and their request to block the lease sales citing that, “development of energy resources…is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment.” This will hopefully allow the new Administration to review the leases and their consequences.

This is a huge victory for conservation groups, and eco-defenders of all walks. I know many, myself included, that have spent countless hours walking the canyons, running the rivers, and losing ourselves in the beauty of the red rock country. The Utah wilderness is truly a magical and sacred place. For us wild Four Corner folk this is simply a place we cannot afford to lose, especially to the wanton destruction of irresponsible industrial development. Thankfully people like DeChristopher weren’t willing to let these areas slip without a fight. In my opinion, this is the spirit of resistance we need to bring into 2009. Let us make a new years resolution to foster in ourselves a revived sense of resistance to the atrocities that face our world, both social and ecological. The hour is upon us, and there is no time to wait—the natural world is hurting and we must find it in ourselves to relieve the pain.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Issue #1 Pre-Release

We’re having resolution problems (with the text, but not the images for some reason) when doing the lay-out for printing, which was going to be on 11×17 inch paper, folded to be 8.5×11.

Click here to download the PDF in straight order, whereas in the final print version the articles where broken up and continued towards the end.

I’m trying to get this file uploaded to ZineLibrary.info but for some reason it won’t load it right now.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Local History of Eco-Defense: Tamarron Resort Construction Attacked by Eco-Saboteurs

From WilderPress! Issue #1

Editor’s Note: While there is a long history of radical environmentalism, eco-defense, and direct action in the greater Southwest area, as residents of Durango, it is easy to forget that our own community has a long history of environmental defense. WilderPress! will thus be bringing you a series of short articles detailing the often-forgotten or intentionally buried and ignored history of eco-defense in Durango and the surrounding area. This is the first article in that series. If you have suggestions for future articles for the series, email your ideas to the WilderPress! Editorial Collective.

On July 26th, 2005, an article appeared in The Durango Herald entitled “Vandals Target Resort Construction.” Now called The Glacier Club, Tamarron Resort is located between Durango and Purgatory (aka the abomination known as “Durango Mountain Resort”). Jesse Harlan Alderman reported for The Herald that an “estimated $100,000 worth of equipment was vandalized.” Lt. Dan Bender of the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office reported that the vandal or vandals, as Alderman wrote, “slashed truck tires and shot out windows on nine vehicles, cut fuel pump lines and defaced other property.” The equipment belonged to Durango contractor Rathjen Construction and Asphalt Paving Co. The Herald reported:

“We don’t know whether it was an ex-employee or one of these ‘Earth First’ people,” said company owner Bob Rathjen. “They really did know how to sabotage the place.” Late July 19, at least one person broke into the resort and trashed four separate construction sites, Bender said. Property on County Road 200 near Rockwood was also destroyed. The vandal attacked tires and windows and shot vehicles with a pellet gun, he said. Among the heavy equipment wrecked were Hitachi and Cat BL excavators and three dump trucks, Rathjen said. The vandalism forced the company to halt construction for a day and a half, he said.

The Herald also reported that Tamarron had recently added nine holes to its golf course, and was under an expansion plan that included the construction of large vacation homes on no less than 350 new lots. As The Herald reported:

“Rathjen suggested that the vandalism could be the work of environmentalists or an anti-development group. The company has been targeted in the past, he said. “We’ve had some minor things that we felt was the work of environmentalists,” he said.

Though Tamarron at the time only stationed security guards at its entrance, The Herald reported that Rathjen planned to hire additional night watchmen, adding to the overall cost of the expansion and cutting into the overall profit margin. If one of the fundamental aims of such actions is to inflict economic damage, this action, though successful in inflicting financial damage, ultimately failed in scale and scope in shutting the expansion project down. Much of the expansion planned for Tamarron, now called The Glacier Club, has been completed, and more is on the way. The action of July 2005 was a start, and a good start, but in order for such campaigns of economic sabotage to be successful, they must be sustained or at least more extensive in scale and scope.

Numerous autonomous strikes such as these can, however, have the potential to slow and in many cases stop the systematic destruction of the natural world. They can also serve as propaganda of the deed, inspiring and encouraging others to action. It is not necessary for each and every individual eco-defender to inflict extensive damage, for if small acts of sabotage are numerous and frequent enough, the damage will be extensive indeed.

Be careful, stay safe, plan well, and work only with those you know and trust, preferably in small groups of threes or fours. Never speak of actions to those who are not directly involved, even if you trust them.

Next in the local historiography series: an exclusive interview with one of the “Sandbench 12,” who were arrested while occupying a Forest Service office in Pagosa Springs to protest the Sandbench timber sale. Around 60 people participated in the occupation, and solidarity demonstrations took place outside the hearings.

Green Scare: FBI Hunts for ELF/ALF Suspects in Durango, CO

From WilderPress! Issue #1

Upon returning to classes from Thanksgiving break on December 1, 2008, students at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado were surprised to discover FBI wanted posters posted on campus. After photographing and filming the flyers for historical and referential purposes, a group of anonymous disgruntled students converged, discussed the situation, and proceeded to remove the offending witch-hunt propaganda from at least one location.

The FBI wanted posters were for four individuals from known Green Scare cases—two females, ages 34 & 35, and two males, ages 29 & 41—whose listed charges include “Conspiracy to Commit Arson,” “Conspiracy to Commit Arson of United States Government Property and of Property Used in Interstate Commerce,” “Arson of Property Used in Interstate Commerce,” “Conspiracy to Destroy an Energy Facility,” “Conspiracy to Commit Arson and Destruction of an Energy Facility,” “Destruction of an Energy Facility,” “Arson of a Building,” “Attempted Arson of a Building,” “Arson of a Government Building,” “Use and Carrying of a Destructive Device During and In Relation to a Crime of Violence,” “Making Unregistered Destructive Devices,” and “Arson of a Vehicle.” (While their names are well known, we will not reprint them here, so as to not aid the agents of state oppression in their aim of repressing dissent and resistance.)

The listed actions the individuals are wanted for alleged involvement in date back to 1996 and include actions in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Wyoming, including the May 21, 2001 University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture fire in Seattle, Washington, the simultaneous fire that destroyed several buildings and vehicles in Susanville, California (both claimed by the Earth Liberation Front), the October 15, 2001 arson and attempted animal liberation at the Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corral (also in Susanville, CA, and claimed by the Animal Liberation Front). The Grand Juries dealing with the Green Scare cases filed their indictments against the suspects on January 19, 2006 in Eugene, Oregon, on April 6, 2006 in Sacramento, California, and on May 17, 2006 in Seattle, Washington.

What were these posters doing on campus? What is the FBI doing looking for these suspects in Durango? Or were these wanted posters simply printed off the internet and posted by someone, perhaps in the school administration, who felt the need to exceed their job description and actually perform the role of the repressive apparatus of the State? Unfortunately, the Durango community may never know.

If similar wanted posters are found elsewhere, please report them to WilderPress! and your local Indymedia. Remember: never talk to police or the FBI.

For more information on the Green Scare, check out www.greenscare.org and www.greenisthenewred.com.