Can "Bidder 70" Inspire You to Be the Change That You Seek?

Ever wondered how far you’d be willing to go to make a difference in your community?

How much time and money would you be willing to give toward a cause?

Would you risk being thrown in jail for something that you strongly believe in?

I found myself mulling over these questions last month when the Center for a New American Dream co-sponsored the showing of the new documentary film Bidder 70 at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The screening, hosted by the Environment Committee at St. Columba’s Church, attracted more than 250 viewers from across the D.C. metro area who were interested in learning more about activist Tim DeChristopher and his bold efforts to be the change that he sought.

On December 19, 2008, DeChristopher, then a 27-year-old economics student at the University of Utah, derailed a controversial Bush administration auction of federal lands by posing as a qualified bidder for oil and gas leases, despite having no intention of paying. Raising paddle #70, he bid $1.7 million and won 22,000 acres of pristine Utah wilderness that was slated for extractive development. He was later charged with fraud, and in 2012 DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised probation and a $10,000 fine.

The good news is that, as a result of DeChristopher’s actions, a passionate movement has grown around him in support of preserving the public lands he was trying to save. These areas, shockingly, were directly adjacent to national treasures like Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument.

Even better news is that DeChristopher is due to be released this month—on April 21, the day before Earth Day.

If you want to learn more about DeChristopher’s actions and the incredible network he has spawned, I encourage you to consider attending or hosting an Earth Day screening of Bidder 70. You can also be part of a live conversation with Tim and hear more about his plans for the future—you are sure to be moved.

If you find yourself inspired to get directly involved in your community, you can check out the Collaborative Communities section of the New Dream website. We’ve developed a new Community Action Kit that provides easy-to-use guides for taking action. You’ll find tips on creating initiatives that build local capacity and leadership, increase environmental sustainability, and foster greater livability and vitality in your neighborhood or region.

We may not all be as selfless and daring as DeChristopher, but we can still have a lasting impact in our communities—to preserve our local environment, to stand up for what’s right, and to make a difference in our own, equally important, ways.

Anna Awimbo is the Collaborative Communities Program Director with the Center for a New American Dream.

« Back to Blog


Tim’s story is so moving. I, too, found myself contemplating whether, for all my rhetoric and passion, would I have the guts to do what’s right when it came down to it, if the cost was so high, as it was in Tim’s case. They say bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather doing what has to be done in the face of fear. I hope I will be that brave if I am ever in a similar situation.

Posted by Nicole at April 11, 2013 at 4:56pm


Connect with Us