Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2016

Contact:  Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity,, (510) 274-9713
Amanda Starbuck, Rainforest Action Network,, (415) 659-0510
Jason Kowalski,,, (202) 670-5345
Marissa Knodel, Friends of the Earth,, (202) 222-0729
Hilary Lewis,, (202) 887-1872 Ext. 101
Lesley Adams,, (541) 821-3882
Shelley Silbert, Great Old Broads,, (970) 385-9577

As Part of BLM Fossil Fuel Auction Protest, Author Terry Tempest Williams Buys Parcels

Large-scale Protest, Activism by Prominent Author Ups the Ante on 'Keep it in the Ground' Campaign

SALT LAKE CITY— More than 100 local activists rallied today at a Bureau of Land Management fossil fuel lease auction in Utah and author and activist Terry Tempest Williams purchased several parcels totaling 1,751 acres in Grand County, Utah, through a company she formed called Tempest Exploration. The group of activists, representing a broad-reaching alliance of community members, packed and overflowed the auction room. They rallied and marched outside and then came into the auction, spontaneously singing songs as the parcels were auctioned off until they were forced to leave.

KING protest
Photo by Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity. Photos are available for media use.

After Williams bought up parcels at $1.50 per acre, she was asked by a BLM official if this was “a legitimate bid for energy development.”  

“Yes,” she replied. “You can’t define what energy is for us. Our energy development is fueling a movement. Keep it in the ground.”

Today’s protest and Williams’ actions are yet another sign of the growing energy and momentum of the “Keep It in the Ground” movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by halting new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans.

In recent months, local citizens and activists in Utah and in states across the country have protested outside BLM fossil fuel auctions. Since November, in response to protests, the Obama administration has postponed oil and gas leasing auctions in Utah, Montana and Washington, D.C., and this strategy has gained the attention of leaders in Congress, in the federal government and on the 2016 campaign trail.

“The protests of today's auction are another sign that the days of un-resisted fossil fuel development are over,” said Tim DeChristopher, who was arrested and imprisoned for 21 months for disrupting a BLM auction in 2008. “The public is clearly against the leasing of fossil fuels on public lands, and they are charting a path for political leaders to follow.”

Statements From Individuals and Groups

Amanda Starbuck, climate and energy program director at Rainforest Action Network:
“Terry Tempest Williams is one of the West's most passionate and eloquent voices for wildness and the sublime importance of unspoiled open spaces. Today, she has taken a powerful stand for all of us by helping to expose the broken and outdated system of leasing our public lands to dirty energy companies for pennies on the dollar. Rainforest Action Network offers our full support to Terry's bold call to keep fossil fuels in the ground in Utah and beyond.”

Bill McKibben, co-founder:
 “The West — and the planet — have no greater champion than Terry Tempest Williams, in her writing, and as today, in her many actions. She’s been decades ahead of the rest of us in her fight for a stable Earth.”

Jennifer Krill, executive director of Earthworks:
“Citizens are our last line of defense against the fossil fuel industry. We salute Terry Tempest Williams for protecting public lands in Utah today, and the citizens of Utah who are speaking out for our health and climate. President Obama, they are sending a message to you: keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

Marissa Knodel, climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth:
“All of us at Friends of the Earth commend Terry Tempest Williams for her brave action to protect our public lands from Fossil Fuel Empires and keep fossil fuels in the ground.  The lands being auctioned today belong to all of us and should not be sacrificed for the profits of the oil and gas industry. Williams and the over 100 activists who protested today’s oil and gas auction demonstrated the growing energy of the Keep It in the Ground movement in Utah and across the country.  The movement will not stop until our publicly owned fossil fuels are kept in the ground for good.”

Valerie Love, clean energy campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity:
“As one of the activists removed from today’s auction, I applaud Terry Tempest Williams’ action to buy up lease parcels. We have a right to bear witness as the federal government auctions off our climate future by leasing public lands and fossil fuels belonging to all of us. We will continue to rally, sing and protest until President Obama halts these auctions once and for all.”

Sarah Stock of Canyon Country Rising Tide:
“Today we saw people spontaneously seize power and take action together. The BLM can expect more of this as long as they continue to jeopardize our future by auctioning off our health and climate stability.”

Lauren Wood, with the Riverkeeper Affiliate, Living Rivers:
“Today our local community flexed our power through spontaneous singing and connected to a global resistance against fossil fuels.  Like the rivers we protect, this movement will continue to connect our struggles until we are able to fully recognize how very powerful people are compared to this industry bent on destroying us.

Kaitlin Butler, program director with Science and Environmental Health Network and Women's Congress for Future Generations:
“Today we witnessed a groundswell of solidarity from a broad spectrum of local organizers coming together to fight for a livable future. Today we also witnessed thousands of acres of land being sold to the oil and gas industry without the consent of the public. Sometimes we have to stop and name the sorrows, trace them to their root. The Women's Congress for Future Generations calls on those fighting for a livable future to join us in visiting the land, to bear witness, to grieve. Our grief will serve as a compass for the hard, important work ahead to Keep it in the Ground.”

Donna Lisenby, clean and safe energy campaign manager with Waterkeeper Alliance:
“Today's heroic action by Ms. Williams effectively transformed a public process designed to enrich private corporations by giving them cheap access to public resources into one that inspires grassroots action on climate. Waterkeeper Alliance salutes Ms. Williams and all of the activists at the fossil fuel auction in Utah today. Together we will continue to pressure the Obama administration to make good on the U.S. Paris commitments by keeping U.S. fossil fuels in the ground.”

Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness:
“We cannot continue selling our children and grandchildren’s future to the fossil fuel companies. We stand with Terry Tempest Williams in protest of new energy lease sales on public lands. Our Utah Greater Wasatch chapter joined in unison with Terry today to say ‘Keep it in the Ground’ – public lands need to be the solution to climate change, not the problem.”

Images from today’s protest are available for media use.

See this map for planned February 2016 lease sales in Utah and nearby states.

Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama.

Download Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels).

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits (this report details the corporations profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands).

Download WildEarth Guardians administrative protest of the February 2016 Utah Oil and Gas Lease Sale.

Download WildEarth Guardians’ formal petition calling on the Department of the Interior to study for the first time ever the climate impacts of the federal oil and gas leasing program and to place a moratorium on new leasing until completed that study is completed.

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