Environmental and leftwing campaigners, from actress Daryl Hannah to film maker Michael Moore and writer Naomi Klein, immediately denounced the sentence as excessive.
At a vigil outside the Salt Lake City courtroom where sentencing took place, supporters of DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising civil disobedience movement shouted: “Justice is not found here.”
As Bidder No 70, DeChristopher disrupted what was seen as a last giveaway to the oil and gas industry by the Bush administration by bidding $1.8m (£1.1m) he did not have for the right to drill in remote areas of Utah. He was convicted of defrauding the government last March.
In a phone conversation with The Guardian, a day ahead of sentencing, he said he was expecting jail time: “I do think I will serve some time in prison. That is what I think will be the next chapter in my life.”
DeChristopher’s lawyers had argued that his actions in December 2008 were a one-off, and that the judge should show leniency. They argued DeChristopher had not intended to cause harm.
However, Judge Dee Benson said DeChristopher’s political beliefs did not excuse his actions.