Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Name: Roy van de Hoek
What He Does: Goes out on a limb
Claim To Fame: Prairie watchdog

The Carrizo Plain, a vast, desolate prairie in central California, is home to a host of endangered species, including the giant kangaroo rat and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. But for other forms of life, the 250,000 acres of public land can be an unforgiving place. Just ask Roy van de Hoek.

On the evening of December 8, 1996, van de Hoek lay handcuffed and facedown in the dirt after being arrested by a Bureau of Land Management ranger on 12 misdemeanor charges, including vandalism and trespassing. For the previous 14 months someone had been sneaking around the plain at night, pruning and chopping down trees and tearing down fences. The BLM, which oversees most of the Carrizo, thought it had its man.

Van de Hoek was no ordinary suspect. He worked for the BLM from 1988 to 1993 as a Carrizo wildlife biologist and was outspoken against BLM policies that allow tree planting and fence building. Such measures, says van de Hoek (and other biologists familiar with the area), disrupt the delicate ecology of the plain and threaten native species that thrive in treeless conditions. “If you’ve made this a natural area,” he explains, “then you have to live up to what that means.”

But is van de Hoek, who now works as a naturalist on Catalina Island, the limb reaper of the Carrizo Plain? The BLM has prepared a 100-plus-page case file against him that includes a crime lab’s analysis of his wire cutters and a special agent’s photographs of his tire tracks. “It just doesn’t seem fair that one person should try to take the law into their own hands and impose their own beliefs on everyone else,” says BLM supervisor Steve Larson, van de Hoek’s former boss.

Van de Hoek says only that he is motivated by a love for the land, not a hatred of trees. “What I dream about is that 500 people all show up on the Carrizo with wire cutters and we all cut fences.”

Know of any people who are raising a bit of hell? E-mail hellraiser@motherjones.com

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate