Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition

Unifying the voice of a generation in environmental solidarity

Michigan: Sold to the Highest Bidder

on November 6, 2012

The following is an account from Chloe Gleichman, a CMU student and prominent climate activist, of what happened at the recent MDNR land auction protest. Remember hearing from Jordan Lindsay about the previous MDNR protest? Well the auction happened, and 195,000 acres of Michigan land were sold for oil and gas development. 

My dad calls it the Magic Trail. It is a short, winding path through a thin forest where the birds, so trusting of humans, will land on seeded hands to grab a snack. Embedded in the safety of a state park, the Magic Trail is as much mine as it is the birds, the rocks, the trees, the deer.

But yesterday, a part of this trail became the property of a new owner, the oil and gas industry. At the hands of our own Department of Natural Resources, the mineral rights of 195,000 acres of our public land was sold to the highest oil and gas industry bidder in the fall edition of a biannual land auction, some for as little as $2/acre.

Sold is one way to describe what happened to the land and water in that grim, austere auction room, but as a citizen of Michigan, a more appropriate word would be stolen. Our land was stolen from us by Big Oil and Gas with the consent of a department whose mission is to conserve and protect.


Poisoning for pennies. No!” Citizens yelled minutes before the auction, until told by a conservation officer, the DNR’s own private police force, that we would be subject to arrest for any disruption we made. The public viewing area, rows of seats behind the bidders, quieted down, but only for a moment.

As the auctioneer put parcel after parcel of land up for bid, emotions were flaring. Devastation. Anger. Betrayal. Powerlessness. While parcel after parcel was sold, citizen after citizen was ejected from the auction room for disrupting a “lawful” meeting, shouting impassioned cries at the bidders and auctioneers.

“Stop it! Think about the people you are poisoning! Think about the children! Stop!” yelled one young woman, in tears, as she was dragged out by four conservation officers. Seven people were arrested for speaking out, attempting to lock in to the auctioneers table, or disrupting the auction. Six were held overnight in jail and charged with felonies for resisting arrest. The fascist state tendencies and class warfare that is inherent in domination by industry became ever more apparent as the bidders sneered at us and laughed, as if the entire auction was some sort of silly game in which they were the winners.

But while we may have been the losers yesterday, a love for our state, a love for our land and water, and a love for each other unites. Intimidation and fear will not crush our spirits or conviction. We are the people and although the systems of power do not acknowledge us, we are not going away. We will not stop until they do.

And if they frack, we’ll be back.


One response to “Michigan: Sold to the Highest Bidder

  1. […] government isn’t protecting these lands anymore, they may sell them to oil and gas companies (like they did with 195,000 acres of land in November). This is particularly scary at this moment why hydraulic fracturing is becoming a more regular […]

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