Idaho Gas Lease Auction Protest & Petition 4-17-14 (April 17, 2014, Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)
On Thursday, April 17, 2014, twenty members of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), the Muse Project, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) staged a successful protest of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) auction of oil and gas leases of state rivers, lands, and mineral rights to the highest bidders among two drilling companies [1-4]. Converging at 8:30 am MDT outside the IDL main office in Boise, Idaho, participants arrived with their protest signs, friends, and family members, including an infant and toddler, and their spirit of solidarity with communities devastated by fossil fuels. Together they sang multiple rounds of the climate activism song Do It Now near the IDL entrance, as five or more news agencies interviewed and filmed the demonstrators, and as bidders, government officials, and their associates hurried inside.
When protesters filed into the building only minutes before the auction began, the receptionist insisted that they could not bring their posters or voices to the auction. One organizer asked to see the Idaho code that disallowed this practice, and the crowd soon occupied and packed the back of the conference room. As bids on 150 public tracts started at $1 per acre and ended as high as $505 per acre, some defaulting to Alta Mesa without competitive bidding, the demonstrators held their protest signs, placed them on tables surrounded by bidders, and scrutinized, videotaped, and photographed the proceedings among irritated oil and gas industry representatives. Immediately after the auction concluded, two activists asked how the public can comment before state auctions on parcels of their lands and minerals planned for fossil fuel development leases. To expand Idaho citizens’ right to knowledge of these lands as well as more stringent water protections for leased rivers and increased public engagement in leasing processes, they also requested comprehensive maps of the leased parcels and the auction’s list of tracts, leasees, and bids.
As described in a petition addressed to Idaho Governor Butch Otter and signed by hundreds of Idaho citizens, the auction protesters plan to discuss and democratize these processes with the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners at their next regular meeting on May 22, 2014 . They also request independent baseline testing of all bodies of water near state lands and minerals, prior to their inclusion in future state lease auctions, and the open availability of this water quality data to the public. Additionally, IRAGE, Muse Project, and WIRT activists assert that: Continue reading