Risking arrest to stop the sale of our public lands

posted by Ruth Breech

KiNG_Colorado_v2_FB.pngYesterday, outside of Denver, the federal government offered up 90,000 acres of public lands for sale to the highest bidder, to drill and frack for private profit.1 Much of that land went for $2 an acre—to some of the world’s richest oil and gas companies. In a bold escalation, six Colorado activists risked arrest to block access to the auction, and I rallied with more than 100 environmentalists to call for an end to this climate-killing corporate land grab.

Will you stand with us? Tell President Obama: end oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands!

Yesterday’s escalation was the latest step for the Keep It in the Ground campaign. From the pages of The New York Times2 to Time Magazine, Keep It in the Ground is being called “the next frontier” to follow our victory over the Keystone XL pipeline.3

It’s been an incredible week for the climate movement. Just six days ago, after seven years of people-powered resistance, President Obama rejected Keystone on climate grounds, a historic precedent.4 That was a huge win—but we have to push him to do more. If President Obama wants a truly lasting climate legacy, he should end fossil fuel leasing on public lands: he should Keep It in the Ground. With a single executive order, he could keep a staggering 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere—almost half of all potential emissions from remaining U.S. fossil fuels.5 By contrast, the president’s Climate Action Plan, even if it’s fully implemented, would keep less than 6 billion tons of carbon out of the air.6

Fossil fuel companies already control more than 65 million acres of public lands and coastal waters—55 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park—and across the country they’re grabbing more at auctions like the one in Colorado.7 They’re wrecking our wild places—like the beautiful Pawnee National Grassland, home to most of the land on offer yesterday—hurting our communities’ health, and killing the climate. Mining, drilling, and fracking for coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands accounts for an astonishing one-quarter of the United States’ climate change emissions.8

Enough! Tell President Obama: fossil fuel companies off our public lands!

The auction in Colorado yesterday went ahead—but this campaign is just beginning. We will continue to shine a light on these corporate giveaways that usually happen far from any media attention. It wasn’t a huge surprise when the auctioneer called the peaceful activists “eco-terrorists” during the live auction. But it was a nasty shock when the auctioneer got into his SUV and ran into one of the activists risking arrest! After a trip to the hospital, our friend was okay. But you couldn’t ask for a clearer illustration of fossil fuel recklessness and arrogance. And it’s a reminder of what we’re up against—putting our bodies on the line to keep oil, gas and coal in the ground.

The Keep It in the Ground campaign needs your help to keep the pressure on. With more than a quarter-million acres of public lands across the country up for grabs, we were in Wyoming last week and Colorado yesterday, and coming up there are auctions in Utah, Nevada, and Washington DC. In September, we delivered a letter to the White House signed by more than 400 organizations and leaders from across the country.9 Our next step? In the coming months, RAN and our many allies are collecting 1,000,000 petition signatures to show that our visionary call has broad and deep support. We’re well on our way. 

Will you add your voice? Tell President Obama: end oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands!

Momentum is on our side. It’s the climate movement’s time. Together, we’re going to end corporate control of our land and its resources. 


1. “Demonstrators Block BLM Office Entrance To Protest Mineral Rights Auction”, Melissa Garcia, CBS Denver, Nov. 12, 2015

2. “Obama Should Let Fossil Fuels Lie”, Lydia Millet, The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2015

3. “Environmental Activists Prepare for Next Fight After Keystone Victory”, Justin Worland, Time, Nov. 6, 2015

4. “When We Fight, We Win: A Timeline to Victory on the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Rainforest Action Network, November 2015

5. “The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels”, EcoShift Consulting, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Earth, August 2015 

6. “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: 2nd Anniversary Progress Report”, The White House, June 2015

7. “Climate activists to White House: Ban fossil fuel extraction”, Tony Dokoupil, MSNBC, Sep. 15, 2015

8. Public Lands, Private Profits, Rainforest Action Network, September 2015

9. http://keepitintheground.org