Western fires stir embers of 'Sagebrush Rebellion'

Western fires stir embers of ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’. By John Miller. AP

First of all, I have always been a sagebrush patriot, not one of these “rebels” with their hand out whining for federal money and complaining that they have to follow rules. One of reasons the sagebrush rebellion was defeated was that folks saw them as band of well-connected people out to steal the public’s land for their own purposes.

It’s interesting that when a wildfire fighter is killed in the line of duty, these same politicians are the first to demand in inquiry.

Last year when Montana’s now ex-senator Conrad Burns belittled a hot shot fire crew (because ranchers had complained), his rating in the polls plunged and from there on it looked like he could well lose the election. He did lose.

From a year ago about this time . . . Report: Burns called firefighters lazy. By Charles S. Johnson.

Larry Craig is up for reelection in 2008. He will have major primary election opposition. He will also face a Democrat.

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–The Idaho Statesman today came down hard on Idaho’s “armchair” fire-fighting policians. Our View: Don’t play blame game with fire management. Editorial view of the Idaho Statesman.



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  1. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    Whatever happened to the notion that fires are a natural occurrence?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This isn’t about fires at all, Mike, don’t you know the cause of fires is public lands and wildlife friendly land and water policy? :-8

  3. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    Yeah, I was being a bit facetious there.

    It’s crazy; these politicians wage these wars of words, give their constituency false pretenses to rally against themselves no less; and they swallow it up.

    It truly is disturbing to witness these things here, living in Idaho; rather than from my previous home in California – far from the actual controversy and the people involved.

    To go to stores in town, and hear people take up these bullsh*t arguments by these stooges is just scary.

    I truly do still find it hard to believe people are this gullible, despite living here among them. Yes, I understand it better; but come on people, get your heads out of your ____ and wake up to what this is really about. Please.

  4. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    A large portion of the general public simply do not care to investigate on their own. They want someone to tell them what to believe. What will it take to get their attention?? I have tried to figure it out and I just don’t know… nor, do I understand how people can simply live in the dark.
    When I was teaching workshops I could never understand why some people never bothered to read the info page that they received many days prior to the classes. They would show up completely clueless and unprepared. All the info was carefully written and could not have been “dumbed down” any further. These were my classes for adults!! The adults didn’t want to think, they just wanted someone to “dictate” everything. They could not do anything independently. The children in my kids classes were always prepared and always thinking. They were fantastic students.
    I do not know how to get people to “pull their heads out”. I think it may be impossible.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i have thought a lot about this ~ as i’m sure a lot of us have.

    i’ll start with what i’d conclude with —

    BECAUSE people need to be spoon-fed basal associative imagery to establish preconceived notion – or even volition, IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that those of us who have taken the time to learn the facts ACT on them. Ralph’s call for sagebrush patriots to rally against the land stealing rebels is particulary apt.

    there are ways to deliver messages that are effective – (i’ve had ideas, unfortunately they haven’t hit the chord 🙂 . but i’ll keep pounding the pavement, calling the so-called journalists, the politicians and hopefully utilize new-found ways to scream into the storm)

    Ex of effective delivery without facts: anti-wolf folk have been able to tap the basal fear by the association of predation on cattle, elk, hell – even your children ~ regardless of the FACTS that show their association is largely unsubstantiated.

    There must be similar ways to deliver factually/truthfully substantiated messages which compell the more positive basal tendencies of our nature ~ and hopefully deliver them to others in a way that whether they fully sign-on or not to exert effort, their preconceptions will uphold those tendencies: hope, inspiration, humility toward nature.

    i don’t think we need to abandon at all facts, knowledge, or reason ~ just be as purposeful about how to make these facts stick as we are about how they are determined — Aldo Leopold is one of my favorite examples of this…

    look – even if i’m wrong and there’s no way to cure the affluenza of this time, that just makes it that much more IMPORTANT that those of us who do find facts compelling ~ and want to make sure that they are what’s used in decision-making processes – take serious note of Ralph’s wise words. we’re all doing things – i’ll commit to stretching a little bit further in this critical time of waxing and waning political/social circumstance.

  6. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    With regards to education, the most important thing isn’t how; its whether or not any education efforts are successful. So the most important thing then is measuring some criteria to determine if education is succeeding.

    Surveys, monitoring of illegal kills, monitoring media representation of wolves; these are some of the criteria that could be used to measure the success of education efforts. Yes, it would take a long time to see results; but the alternative is, well, the new 10j rule, and Butch Otter are two fine examples. These are the results of a complete lack of scientific effort to educate the public. The NRMWRP said that education was necessary; but that’s where it ends. It didn’t spell out what kind of education, nor did it spell out criteria for determining the success. As a result, the WRP has failed to educate the public, and failed to remove two of the five reasons wolves were killed off in the first place. As a result, history will be repeating itself. Sure, wolves may soon be delisted; but when will they be relisted.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan