The Bush administration may almost be over, but its final actions still have some environmentalists fuming.
Tim DeChristopher moved from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City to study economics at the University of Utah and to enjoy the wild beauty.
"There are a lot of scenes that make your jaw drop," he says. "It's not like any other place in the world."
But where DeChristopher sees beauty, others see bounty. When one of the last-minute acts of the Bush administration was to auction off some of this land for oil drilling, the 27-year-old student said he had to act. Joining protestors again was not enough.
So, after his final exam, he went to the auction and talked his way in, "and they said, 'Are you here to be a bidder?' and I said, 'Why yes, I am.'"
He first thought to disrupt it with shouts of protest, then on the spot, came up with a more disruptive plan. He bid on the oil leases, bidding prices way up on some parcels and outright winning bids on 22,000 acres for US$1.7 million, which he neither had the means nor any intention of paying.
It threw the auction into chaos.
"It cost us potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars," said one bidder.
"He defrauded the government, he defrauded the public by going in and bidding on these parcels," said another.
Environmentalists hauled out the big guns to shoot down the Utah land auction.
The fact that they are shoving this in at the last moment as they're going out the door is typical of the last eight years," says actor and environmentalist Robert Redford.
But what the environmentalists could not do, DeChristopher did. And under the Obama administration, the land will likely not go on the auction block again.
"I suppose that is one of the reasons I started studying economics," says DeChristopher. "If we want to effect change, we have to use the economic tools to do it."
He is now the darling of many environmentalists. A website raising money for the leases he bought has pulled in $45,000.
But it is too little, too late. DeChristopher could face fraud charges in federal court.
"Prison is a scary place, but I knew that going into this," he says.
But if that is the price, he says he is willing to pay it.