Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


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

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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