Tim DeChristopher Thwarts a Land Auction (Bidder 70) Favorite 



Jul 27 2011



In December 2008, Tim DeChristopher, along with his church group, was protesting outside a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction of 116 parcels of public land in Utah's red rock country. Tim decided to take his protest inside and disrupt the auction itself. Instead, at the door, he was offered a bidder's paddle — which, after a split second of hesitation, he accepted.

After a bit more reflection, he began bidding on 14 parcels of land (totaling 22,500 acres), soon pushing the bids beyond the reach of other buyers. When the judge realized what was happening, DeChristopher was removed from the auction by federal agents and the auction was halted.

Shortly afterwards, a court injunction was filed and the United States Department of the Interior canceled many of the leases, saying they had been rushed into auction with insufficient environmental and scientific review.

In other words, DeChristopher single-handedly saved hundreds of thousands of acres of Utah public land from turning into just that much more fuel for climate change.

DeChristopher refused to work out a plea deal with the federal government, and his case went to trial. The case became a symbol of solidarity for environmentalists, including celebrities like Robert Redford and Daryl Hannah. Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, led a sing-a-long and rally outside the courthouse in the hours leading up to the hearing in DeChristopher's case. Activists contended DeChristopher was simply standing up to a federal agency that had violated federal environmental laws by holding the auction in the first place.

"My intent both at the time of the auction and now was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil and gas industry, to the point that it cut into their $100 billion profits," DeChristopher told U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. DeChristopher said he would accept whatever punishment Benson imposed, but added that time in prison would not silence him or change his viewpoint.

"You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine," DeChristopher said. "I'll continue to confront the system that threatens our future."

DeChristopher eventually served 21 months in prison, during which he read profusely and helped other prisoners with their cases. "The great thing about mass incarceration is that almost everyone in prison is just a regular person," he joked at one point.

Posted by Molly on

Staff rating: 

This action - which was unplanned, so it's the action, not any campaign, that had a clear goal - definitely resulted in taking much land off the market, for quite a while at least.

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Temporarily took land off the market, but DeChristopher was arrested and imprisoned. Later, a federal judge prohibited the leases from being reissued, and the case became a point of solidarity for environmentalists.