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Tim DeChristopher: Biding time by bidding big

   /   Mar 18th, 2010News

Social entrepreneurs like to use the word “scrappy” to describe the way they tackle big problems.  Think of doing whatever it takes—writing emails until 4 a.m., living in your best friend’s basement, etc.—all for the big-picture change you seek. Then there’s Tim DeChristopher, who spent $1.7 million dollars he didn’t have…

After the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced in December 2008 its plan to auction oil and gas leases on federal land in Utah — much of the land abutting Arches and Canyonlands national parks — members of Congress, activists, environmental groups and even actor Robert Redford pulled out all the stops to try to stymie the plan. They filed lawsuits, waged protests, held press conferences. But nothing worked. The auction went ahead.

That’s when Tim DeChristopher, an economics student at the University of Utah, got serious, as he recounted to Mother Jones.

He showed up at the auction, resolved to stop it, but without any plan in mind.  When an auction organizer asked him if he was there to bid, he accepted the paddle and proceeded to outbid speculators on 13 parcels covering more than 22,000 acres.

Eventually, the auction organizers discovered Tim’s ploy and had him removed, but his actions forced the BLM to invalidate the auction. The delay allowed a new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to take office and cancel the auction, ensuring that the land will remain protected under the Obama administration.

And all because one scrappy student had the courage to show up and raise his voice — and his paddle.

Photo: Salt Lake Tribune

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