02/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Environmentalist Punked Bush Administration, Hopes To Save Utah Land

A few weeks ago, an environmentalist named Tim DeChristopher played a big joke on the Bureau of Land Management, the Bush Administration and the oil and gas industries.

At an auction of previously unavailable land -- an auction protested against by many enviros, including Robert Redford -- DeChristopher made high bids on land, forcing companies to match his bids.

Of course in some cases, they didn't match them. So he "won" a few tracts of land.

Several bidders said they hadn't decided whether they would withdraw their bids. Some said they may reluctantly hold on to their leases _ despite the higher cost _ out of concern that the parcels might not go up for auction again under President-elect Barack Obama's administration.

DeChristopher snapped up 22,500 acres of land around Arches and Canyonlands parks but said he could afford to pay for only a few of those acres. He owes $1.7 million on all of his leases.

Now he's decided -- with legal help -- to raise money in order to actually put down payments on the land, which will keep him out of jail and extend the debate over the land's fate. He's written an open letter explaining his situation. Here's an excerpt:

It is still unclear how the new administration will deal with this inappropriate auction and the disruption I caused to it, but I can only hope the President Obama follows through on his promise for a transparent government. Until then I will make sure that no drilling or development happens on this land, and for that I need your help. This is an opportunity for all of us to make a clear statement of how much we care for our land, our climate and participatory democracy.

Please donate to help protect these 22,500 acres of wilderness (and reduce the chance of prison for me). Together we can protect this land and show that we are all willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a livable future.