Ed Abbey would be proud.
At an auction held by the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas leases on 149,000 acres of public land in Utah, a University of Utah student and environmental activist named Tim DeChristopher posed as a bidder and bought up 22,000 acres to keep it from industry clutches. Much of this land was from the area right around Arches National Park, a beautiful swath immortalized in Ed Abbey’s book Desert Solitaire. DeChristopher also drove up prices for oil and gas leases on other parcels to the tune of about half a million dollars.
Reports the Salt Lake Tribune:
He didn’t pour sugar into a bulldozer’s gas tank. He didn’t spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder’s paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won’t be opened to drilling anytime soon.
Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy — and he’s not sorry.
“I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience,” he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. “There comes a time to take a stand.”
The land was being auctioned off in another last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to win Big Industry some holiday goodies before Obama takes office in January. The BLM didn’t have time to do adequate environmental impact statements, leave much time for public comment, or even take in input from other federal agencies such as the National Parks Service. Apparently in BLM’s intial announcement of the auction, private property with houses on it and land the agency didn’t have rights to drill on was also included. BLM won’t re-open the land DeChristopher’s won for auction until February, when the new administration will be in place. They are also giving bidders who won parcels with inflated prices the chance to withdraw those bids within a ten-day period — but since the Obama administration is unlikely to offer the leases again, most bidders will probably hold on to the land they’ve won.
Watch Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! interview DeChristopher below:
And a final Ed Abbey parting shot:
A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.